Cold Weather Can Threaten Clients, Employees

Picturesque holiday cards aside, cold weather — ice, snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures — can be a real health threat to both your mobility clients and to your employees who need to trek through it. Picture, for instance, your repair techs or delivery drivers repeatedly loading and unloading equipment in freezing conditions.

As Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine (TUSPM) pointed out in a recent report, "People of all ages need to take precautions to protect their feet from cold-related injuries like frostbite, ankle sprains and fractures." At particular risk, the report says, are people with compromised circulatory systems: seniors, people who smoke, people who imbibe caffeine, and people who have illnesses such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or arteriosclerosis that impact circulation.

Foot injuries, including frostbite, can be more difficult to detect for people who have loss of sensation, including some people with diabetes. To help educate people with diabetes and their caregivers, the National Institutes of Health offer a free downloadable brochure on foot care and health called "Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime." The brochure offers tips on preventive care and hygiene, as well as tips on when to consult a health care professional. You can download the brochure for your customers at http://ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/pubs/Feet_broch_Eng.pdf.

As for employees who work in inclement weather, TUSPM recommends that they wear acrylic socks that wick away moisture to keep feet dry, and that at the first sign of numbness possibly caused by frostbite, "Warm towels and water should be used to warm the affected area… The person should then see a doctor, who can determine if there's any tissue damage."

And, said TUSPM podiatric surgery instructor Jason R. Miller, even seemingly minor ankle twists or sprains should be taken seriously, because "Ice and snow create the impetus for injury by allowing the foot to twist on the leg in such a way that ligaments and bone are damaged… A person sustaining an ankle injury should not ignore it. Fractures of the foot can occur with seemingly minor ankle sprains and may be missed by ER doctors who are only focusing on the ankle."

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