HELENA — When the weather turns icy and cold, emergency rooms can fill up quickly due to cold weather injuries.
Asia spoke with Andrea Hedblow, an urgent care Physician's Assistant at St. Peter's Health.
"We see a lot of ankle sprains, wrist sprains from falls. The best way to prevent slips and falls is wearing appropriate footwear, whether it be snow boots or traction devices. Being aware of your surroundings. Go slow and not move too quickly," Hedblow said.
But it's not just slips and falls. Physical exertion that comes with clearing away snow can also be dangerous.
"An increase in heart attacks related to snow shoveling is common," Hedblow said.
Protect yourself by limiting the stress you put on your body.
"Start off shoveling slowly, make sure you're shoveling small amounts. Take as many breaks as you can and certainly, stop if you develop any symptoms that can be heart-related, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain radiating to your arms or jaw," Hedblow said.
Anyone outside for an extended period also needs to be alert for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissue freeze.
Hedblow says the first sign of frostbites are "numbness, tingling, decreased sensation, changes in skin color, your skin will become more red or becomes more pale."
Hedblow adds frostbite is most common in fingers, toes, and on the nose. If you think you have frostbite, you need to seek medical attention.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, dropping your body temperature dangerously low.
Symptoms include shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse, clumsiness, drowsiness, and confusion.
"If you are out in the elements and you are with someone who seems as if they are getting a little confused, it's definitely a time to get them indoors," Hedblow advises.