Monday Medical: Protect yourself this winter |

Monday Medical: Protect yourself this winter

Lindsey Reznicek
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Living in the mountains, there are many ways to recreate throughout the winter months. Whether you click into skis, buckle on a snowboard, lace up ice skates or strap on snowshoes, health experts encourage you to do your part to keep yourself and others as safe as possible.

Protect your head

“Snow is soft, but it can also be as hard as concrete,” said Dr. Laura Sehnert, an emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “A helmet can save you.”

Concussions and other head injuries are most common when skiing at high speeds or in the trees. If you do have a significant crash with a helmet, invest in a new one as the foam in the helmet may have become compressed and may not fully protect your head.

Protect your eyes

“Injuries to the eye can be prevented simply by protecting your eyes,” said Dr. Nathan Hamburger, an ophthalmologist in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at YVMC.

Regardless of your outdoor winter activity, wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes from snow blindness, dry eyes and eye trauma.

Protect your skin

Select a broad-spectrum sunscreen for protection against both UVA and UVB rays, as both may contribute to skin cancer. Snow and ice are reflective, which means the sun can hit you from above and below.

Protect your extremities

Dress appropriately to help ward off the potential of frostbite. Clothes that are too tight, permeable to wind or that don’t breathe or wick away moisture can quickly cause issues.

“If clothes don’t wick, get wet and stay wet, it can really predispose you to frostbite,” said Dr. David Cionni, an emergency medicine physician at YVMC.

Pay special attention to the hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears, cheeks and nose, as they are at the end of the blood flow.

Protect your body (by developing your core)

“A stable core helps reduce your potential for injury and optimize performance,” said Dave Grinnell, a physical therapist and board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedics at UCHealth SportsMed Clinic in Steamboat Springs.

Fundamentally, a stable core protects the spinal cord, which is the main information highway by which the brain communicates with the rest of the body. With a stable core, you can do most activities, including skiing and snowboarding, more efficiently.

Grinnell recommends a number of exercises to strengthen the core — planks, push-ups, Pilates, yoga and dynamic stretches, such as cat and camel. And for strength and endurance in the legs, add in some squats and lunges.

Protect each other

No one wants a ski adventure canceled due to illness. One of the easiest things you can do to stay healthy? Get vaccinated.

“You may be the one getting vaccinated, but everyone around you benefits,” said Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist at YVMC. “Flu shots take two weeks to fully kick in and for your body to start building immunity. COVID-19 vaccinations take 14 days after the vaccine series is completed to be fully effective. Get your shots — the sooner, the better.”

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