Keeping Your Feet Safe and Healthy in the Winter
The snow is starting to fall and the temperatures are dropping. Some people look forward to the chilly weather and others just keep hoping for Spring to come early. No matter which type of person you are, each one of us has to be careful with protecting our feet in the winter. In our region, it seems like it will be a snowy and wet winter which can lead to many hazards for our foot health. One hazard some of us have already had to deal with is the snow and below-freezing temperatures. When the snow starts to fall, many of us slip into our shoes and head out to our driveway to shovel. Snow creates a very wet and slippery environment which can cause many traumatic and thermal injuries. It is always important to remember to wear waterproof shoes/boots and thick warm socks. If you are traveling, make sure you bring an extra change of socks or shoes just in case your original pair gets wet, as this moisture can cause frostbite to occur sooner than it would in a dry environment. Depending on the temperature, wind speed, and amount of moisture, frostbite can take as long as 30 minutes but as quickly as 5 minutes to start affecting the skin of the feet. This can lead to pain, skin discoloration, nerve damage, wounds, or in a worst case scenario, gangrene.
With these frigid temperatures comes snow and ice, and unfortunately, all too often we hear of people slipping and falling because of the conditions outside. Falling can be dangerous for people of all ages, and one bad fall can cause fractures, sprains, and other acute foot/ankle problems. If you are a fall risk, it is safest to stay inside until the conditions have improved. If you must go outside, make sure you are wearing shoes or boots with good traction and tread carefully and slowly.
For those with diabetes or neuropathy (lack of feeling/sensation) to the lower extremities, it is safest to avoid any and all extreme temperatures. With lack of sensation, you are unable to appropriately sense whether the skin of your feet is safe. If you find yourself outside in the winter weather or snow, please make sure you are appropriately dressed with thick, warm socks and closed-toed, waterproof shoes. Also, make sure you limit the amount of time you are exposed to below-freezing temperatures. Once back in a warm environment, check your feet immediately for any changes, and call your doctor if there are any concerns. It is also important to remember that not only freezing temperatures can cause danger in the winter, but also heat thermal injuries as well. It is not uncommon for people to come back in from the cold weather and immediately want to warm up their feet. Sometimes this is done by dangerous methods such as using heating pads, fireplaces, blow-dryers or scalding hot baths. It is recommended that you avoid rewarming your feet with these methods as these can cause burns to the skin which may lead to serious complications.
Lastly, when it’s not snowing or sleeting, winter often brings a decreased humidity and dry air conditions, which can cause your skin to become dry and flaky. Sometimes all the layers we put on to keep our feet safe and warm can cause our feet to sweat and once exposed to the dry air can lead to cracking and fissures of the skin. This can be very painful at times and may even cause the skin to bleed. Therefore, in order to avoid these problems, it is important to appropriately moisturize your feet in the winter. When looking for a lotion or cream to use, try to find one that has a thicker base and is unscented. Sometimes it is necessary to apply lotion two times a day if your feet are prone to dryness.
If you have any problems or concerns with your feet or ankles, the doctors at FASMA are here to help! Call your local FASMA location and we’ll help you keep your feet safe and healthy during these cold winter months.
The information on this site is provided for your assistance only; this site does not provide podiatric advice. You should never diagnose or treat yourself for a podiatric condition based on the information provided herein, and the information is not provided for that purpose. Likewise, you should never determine that treatment is unnecessary based on this information. The information contained herein is not a substitute for podiatric care provided by a licensed podiatric professional. The information provided herein is not podiatric, medical or professional advice. This site does not create a doctor-patient relationship.
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