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Winter fall injuries: When should I see a doctor?

Even though it's the most wonderful time of the year, snow and ice isn't all fun and games. Slipping and falling on ice can be both embarrassing to the ego and damaging to the body. Even healthy millennials can suffer a sprain, strain or fracture when they fall on ice. This is because it is hard to catch your fall on a slick surface and the cold ground is typically harder.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that almost 43,000 workplace fall injuries occurred as a result of snow or ice back in 2014. And that doesn't account for the many injuries that take place on your very own driveway.

Here's when you should seek out help from a medical care clinic following a fall:

If it doesn’t look right

Falling is often brushed off as a minor injury, but this can actually lead to serious problems without the proper care. In the hours after your fall, be sure to check your body: Are there any signs of lumps or serious swelling? Some swelling and bruising can be diminished with a cool compact, but when a limb looks misshapen, it could be a sign of a bigger problem, like a break, fracture or dislocation. In this case, you might need X-rays.

If you suspect a minor fracture (the bone hasn’t broken through your skin), some urgent care centers such as  Indigo Health offer X-rays and treatment. For compound fractures with bleeding and bone protruding through the skin, a trip to the ER is in order. 

If you hit your head

Our heads aren't made to take on serious -- or even mild -- damage. If you happen to hit your head when you fall down, seeking medical attention is vital. While urgent care centers take care of most minor injuries, it’s important to be evaluated by an ER physician for serious head injuries, including loss of consciousness.

Not even the plush pillow of your winter knit hat can stop the threat of a concussion. If you experience dizziness, nausea, vomiting or confusion following a head injury, visit your nearest emergency room right away to be evaluated. 

If you have a lump or bump and mild headache, you can be evaluated at your local urgent care. Your doctor will also give you advice on how to take care of your head injury in the following days. For example, many doctors recommend avoiding athletic activity, screen time (sorry Netflix and cell phones), and stressful situations. 

If you have worrisome cuts or lacerations 

Slipping and falling on ice and pavement can cause a nasty cut, abrasions or lacerations - tearing of the soft tissue. After you've stopped the bleeding, carefully clean your wound with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment and keep the area covered. 

If not treated properly, bacteria and debris from the object that caused the cut can lead to infection. If you see expanding redness, swelling or pus around the wound area, these could be signs of an infection. Visit your local urgent care for treatment. If you have a more serious cut that might require stitches, your urgent care can get you fixed up and on your way quickly.

If you are in serious pain 

An awkward fall can cause bad bruising or muscle strains, both of which can be quite painful. If your pain isn’t improving in 24-48 hours of icing, taking Tylenol or Motrin, and resting the injured area, consider having a doctor look at the injury. 

As mentioned earlier, falling can also result in sprains or fractures, which are commonly seen in the ankles or wrists. If you find that your leg or ankle cannot hold your weight, you should definitely get medical care. You should be able to move your arms, wrists and hands with little difficulty. If you have trouble performing everyday tasks because of serious pain, seeking medical attention is crucial.

Luckily, four in five urgent care centers provide minor fracture care. When you're on the losing side of a slip and fall injury, rely on Indigo Urgent Care to diagnose your issue and give you the tools you need to get better. 

Indigo offers an onsite digital X-ray service, which is used to confirm or rule out injuries. The friendly providers at Indigo also can help treat sprains, strains, bruises and minor cuts that need stitches.  Schedule an appointment online or walk in to an Indigo near you anytime between 8 am to 8 pm every day of the week. 


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