Winter means icy and slippery conditions bringing risks of falling victim to slips and trips.
That’s why NHS North Kirklees and NHS Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are providing some tips on how you can prevent falling and what to do if you unfortunately do have a fall.
If you are unlucky enough to take a tumble and suffer a sprain or a strain, local GPs assure that if they are mild to moderate, they can be easily treated home – it is not always necessary to visit your GP or your A&E department.
Two words which are really important and well-worth remembering when it comes to sprains and strains are PRICE and HARM. Here’s what we mean:
PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation:
- Protection – protect the injured area from further injury by using a support or (in the case of an ankle injury) wearing shoes that enclose and support your feet, such as lace-ups.
- Rest – stop the activity that caused the injury and rest the injured joint or muscle. Avoid activity for the first 48 to 72 hours after injuring yourself. Your GP may recommend you use crutches.
- Ice – for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury, apply ice wrapped in a damp towel to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours during the day. Do not leave the ice on while you are asleep, and do not allow the ice to touch your skin directly, because it could cause a cold burn.
- Compression – compress or bandage the injured area to limit any swelling and movement that could damage it further. You can use a simple elastic bandage or elasticated tubular bandage available from a pharmacy. It should be wrapped snuggly around the affected area, but not so tightly that it restricts blood flow. Remove the bandage before you go to sleep.
- Elevation – keep the injured area raised and supported on a pillow to help reduce swelling. If your leg is injured, avoid having long periods of time where your leg is not raised.
For the first 72 hours after a sprain or muscle strain, you should avoid HARM. This means you should avoid:
- Heat– such as hot baths, saunas or heat packs.
- Alcohol– drinking alcohol will increase bleeding and swelling, and slow healing.
- Running – or any other form of exercise that could cause more damage.
- Massage – which may increase bleeding and swelling.
Demand on emergency services increases dramatically during the winter but it is important that people stop and think: does this illness or injury really need emergency treatment? Many people who attend hospital A&E departments don’t really need to be there. If they do need medical care, there are other NHS services which are more appropriate.
Dr David Hughes, a local GP and NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG lead for urgent care, said:
“If you are unlucky enough to sustain an injury, please think before you go to A&E. Depending on the time of day, there may be other more local services such as a pharmacy, district nurse or your GP practice who can offer help or advice.
“If you are unsure what to do, ring NHS 111 rather than going directly to A&E. This will ensure you get access to the most appropriate treatment for you and will mean hospital based A&E services can be reserved for those with life threatening and emergency conditions, which might be you!”
Dr Yasar Mahmood, a Cleckheaton GP and the NHS North Kirklees CCG clinical lead for urgent care added: “We want people to stay well this winter but we realise slips and falls can be inevitable especially when conditions are icy, and older people are often more vulnerable. But sprains and strains, if mild to moderate can be treated safely at home, so that our accident and emergency service is left for those people who need it.”
Medical help should be sought if:
- the pain is particularly severe
- you cannot move the injured joint or muscle
- you cannot put any weight on the injured limb, or it gives way when you try to use it
- the injured area looks crooked or has unusual lumps or bumps (other than swelling)
- you have numbness, discolouration or coldness in any part of the injured area
- the symptoms have not started to improve within a few days of self-treatment.
Cllr Viv Kendrick, Kirklees Council, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care said: “Getting out and about during the winter is good for our mental and physical wellbeing. Walking helps our mobility, balance and circulation, it can also help put us in a good mood. You don’t need to stay indoors, but do remember to be extra careful around slippery leaves and ice.
“Kirklees Council has a dedicated area on our website which provides a wealth of information to help you prepare for the colder weather www.kirklees.gov.uk/winter including emergency numbers, information about Council services and advice”.
The NHS website contains information from the NHS on conditions, treatments, local services and healthy living and can be accessed at www.nhs.uk . A dedicated website has also been set up as part of the national Stay Well This Winter campaign – visit www.nhs.uk/staywell/ for more information.
Remember, calling NHS 111 makes it easier for you to access local NHS healthcare services in England. You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency. NHS 111 is a fast and easy way to get the right help; it is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.