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Kristin Shives - TRICARE Management Activity
FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The next several months will bring colder temperatures and, in many areas, TRICARE beneficiaries will have to deal with snow and ice. Snow and ice covered roads and sidewalks can make a winter walk in the park or just across the street treacherous.
While it’s important to clear snow and ice from driveways, porches, roofs and walkways, removing it can lead to injuries from slips, trips and falls.
Knowing winter brings a ton of back injuries, TRICARE beneficiaries should be vigilant when performing inside and outside activities. Even if a beneficiary is normally very active and in shape, he or she can easily injure themself while shoveling snow. Injuries related to snow removal are among the most common wintertime injuries.
“If you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing strenuous exercise, speak with your doctor before shoveling and consider hiring someone to remove the snow,” said Cmdr. Aileen Buckler, M.D., population health physician analyst with the TRICARE Management Activity.
TRICARE beneficiaries who need care for winter-related injuries can use an urgent care facility or, if necessary, go to the emergency room. They can review their emergency care options at www.tricare.mil//Emergency.
In addition to these typical winter injuries, there are several other injuries that may plague beneficiaries during the winter months. According to an October 2010 Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center report, from July 2009 through June 2010, 556 service members had cold-related injuries that included frostbite, hypothermia and immersion foot.
Frostbite is the freezing of skin caused by exposure to cold. Under extreme conditions, it can happen in seconds. Factors such as wind chill, alcohol consumption, altitude, dampness and length of cold exposure will affect the onset and severity.
When exposed to cold temperatures, a beneficiary’s body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up a body’s stored energy, causing hypothermia. Low body temperatures affect the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well.
Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, occurs when the feet are wet for long periods of time, and it can be very painful. Unlike frostbite, trench foot does not require freezing temperatures.
The Department of Health & Human Services has a few tips to prepare for a healthier and injury-free winter, especially when it’s freezing, snowing and icy:
With a little advance planning and preparation, TRICARE beneficiaries and their family members will stay warm and safe while they work, travel and enjoy the outdoors this winter. For more information about winter safety, go to http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter.