Vail Daily column: Avoid winter health hazards

Although winter can be lots of fun for many of us, the fact is that winter weather does pose some serious health hazards for those not properly prepared.

For example, did you know that home fires occur more often in winter than at any other time of the year? Also, “people 65 and older are three times more likely to die or be injured in a home fire as those younger,” according to Jim Miller of Savvy Senior, a syndicated news column, in his interview while on the “Today” show.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, one-third of adults over age 65 fall in the course of their activities in any given year. In 2012, 2.4 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 722,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

Clearly, winter can be a hazardous time for seniors whose physical capabilities may not be what they once were.

What can we do to help prevent such injuries and accidents (fires and falls) from occurring? Below are several tips for helping to prevent some of the more obvious accidents from ever coming to fruition:

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• Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor.

• Have fire extinguishers on hand.

• Keep all driveways and sidewalks free from snow and ice.

• Make certain any melted snow in the house is wiped up immediately — puddles can be very slippery.

• Increase lighting or change timers on lights to go on before it becomes dark.

• Use canes or walkers with proper grips for winter.

• Make certain the car is mechanically ready for winter and check the tire tread.

• If utilizing space heaters, then follow directions to the letter. Particularly, make sure the space heater has ample room around it so it will not ignite other objects or overheat.

• When going outdoors, dress properly: Wear a hat, scarf and gloves. Layer up. Stay dry — don’t let clothing get too wet without changing into dry garments.

• When shoveling snow, moderation is the key. Don’t pick up too much at one time. Don’t go too fast. Don’t go beyond your physical limits — the snow will be there after you take a break.

• Be prepared for winter storms. Have plenty of food and water on hand.

• Don’t forget to think of the pet(s). Have food available. How will walking the pet be handled?

• Have emergency numbers readily available: 911, doctors, neighbors and family.

Preparing for potentially inclement weather takes just a little forethought. Regardless of age, planning ahead will minimize most of the negative ramifications associated with winter.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or

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