With temperatures across the UK plummeting in the last couple of weeks, winter has well and truly arrived. But is your winter first aid knowledge up to scratch to deal with the increased risks that this brings? In this article, we’ll look at a few common hazards to be aware of during the winter months.
Staying safe on the ice
Icy roads and pavements can be responsible for many accidents at this time of year, sometimes resulting in serious injuries including fractures, dislocations and head injuries.
So what exactly are fractures? Fractures are broken bones, and can occur either by a direct or indirect force on the body. A direct force can break the bone at the site of the impact, while indirect fractures are caused when the force of impact is transmitted through the body, causing a bone to break elsewhere. Fractures can also be accompanied by soft tissue damage to the tendons, muscles and ligaments surrounding the broken bone.
Due to the heightened risk of falling over in icy conditions, it’s essential not to rule out indirect fractures, so be sure to take a moment to assess the situation after a fall.
More serious fractures can even lead to dislocations, which is when the bone is displaced from its natural position in a joint. In these instances its essential not to push the bone back in; instead, support the area.
Head injuries are another area to look out for in particular when it comes to winter first aid, and should always be taken seriously. One of the most common head injuries is concussion, which is when the brain has suffered a temporary disturbance. Remember, that the patient does not need to be unconscious to have a concussion. Look for symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, loss of memory or confusion.
Driving in snow and ice: is your winter first aid kit stocked up?
As temperatures drop below 7 degrees C, standard summer tyres fitted to most cars in the UK become less effective. This makes driving in winter more dangerous. On top of this, there is the added risk of getting stranded due to bad weather, meaning keeping a well-equipped winter first aid kit in the car is highly advisable.
In February 2014, the BHTA announced the new BS 8599-2 motor vehicle first aid kit, which is the recommended first aid kit for vehicles, including all the essential first aid items you may need while on the road.
It’s also a good idea to carry other winter driving essentials such as an ice scraper, winter screen wash, de-icer, a foil or cotton blanket. Fortunately, Safety First Aid offer a handy winter driving kit containing most of these items!
The dangers of hypothermia
Hypothermia is one of the major dangers at this time of year with the number of hypothermia deaths doubling recently over a five year period, so recognising the signs is essential. Usually, the body retains heat in cold conditions by shivering, raising the fine hairs on the skin, constricting blood vessels and burning fat. However, when severe hypothermia sets in, the shivering stops. Other signs of hypothermia include pale, cold skin, disorientation, shallow breathing and a weak pulse.
Staying safe in the winter
Being able to respond to an emergency is an important skill to know. If you’d like to refresh your winter first aid knowledge, then book a first aid course at Safety First Aid Training and ensure you can respond effectively to any of the major dangers listed above.