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 CCGs are providing some tips on how you can prevent falling and what to do if you unfortunately do have a fall.

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 affected 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 affected 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. Don’t leave the ice on while you’re asleep, and don’t 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 an elasticated tubular bandage available from a pharmacy. It should be wrapped snugly 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 long periods of time where your leg isn’t 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 Kelly, Chair of NHS North Kirklees CCG said:

“If you’re unlucky enough to sustain an injury, please think before you go to A&E and if you’re unsure about what to do, ring NHS 111 first rather than going directly to A&E. By using services appropriately, it means the ambulance service and A&E are then free to deal with the more serious life threatening conditions more quickly and effectively. One day that might be you!”

Dr Steve Ollerton local GP and Chair of NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG said:

“We want people to stay well this winter but we know that 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.

Medical help should be sought if:

  • the pain is particularly severe
  • you can’t move the injured joint or muscle
  • you can’t 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 haven’t started to improve within a few days of self-treatment

If you have any of these symptoms your injury will need to be assessed by a doctor. You might have a severe sprain or strain or another serious injury, such as a fracture.

Kirklees Council has a dedicated area on their website which provides a wealth of information to help you prepare for the colder weather including emergency numbers, information about Council services and advice.

Remember, your local pharmacy can give advice on a wide range of conditions and can help. For simple accidents like sprains, you don’t always need to go to your GP practice. To find your nearest pharmacy and for more information about treating minor illnesses and preparing your medicine cabinet visit the NHS Choices website which has information on conditions, treatments, local services and healthy living. A dedicated website has also been set up as part of the national Stay Well This Winter campaign.

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.