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Caution: Slippery Falls Ahead

Keeping on your toes can be no easy fete, especially come winter. Find out what can trip you up, leading to sudden falls and unwanted injuries.
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WebMD Feature

Do you ever have one of those days where everything is fine until suddenly -- wipe out -- you slip and fall?

Meri-K Appy, the president of the Home Safety Council had a day like that. "I will confess to you that I had a fall and I did everything wrong," she says, of a spill she took about six months ago at an airport when she was rushing to catch a shuttle bus to her hotel. "It was a tile floor and a little wet and I just did an amazing swan dive in front of about 100 people." The irony of the situation -- that she is the president of an organization that advocates and educates people about preventative accidents, with falling at the top of the list -- was not lost on Appy. Luckily, she suffered no serious injuries. To Appy, however, that isn't the point. She could have been terribly hurt.

"Very often in our culture people use falls for a laugh," says Appy, recalling the comedy of Charlie Chaplin, Dick Van Dyke, and Chevy Chase. The problem is that there are very real and severe consequences that could result from a fall. People often feel embarrassed after they take a tumble, and instead of checking to see whether or not they've been hurt, people might find themselves looking around to see if there were any witnesses. Appy tells WebMD that we mustn't lose sight of the more serious consequences of falls -- most notably, a head trauma, hip fracture or even death. In fact, there are almost 6,000 deaths annually from falls, and 5,000 are among adults 65 and older.

In fact, falls are the No. 1 cause of home-injury-related deaths. Appy tells WebMD that on average each year there are nearly 20,000 deaths and more than 21 million medical visits because of preventable home injuries such as falls, fires, choking, and drowning. By a large margin falls are No. 1. Given the endless traps around most houses and in the great outdoors -- think old carpets and rugs that don't stay put, uneven steps without banisters, icy roads, and driveways, etc. -- it's a wonder any of us make it through the day without falling. Luckily, we've got some expert tips for how you can prevent trips and falls this season.

What You Don't See Can Hurt You

It's important that you keep an eye on your sight. Get an eye exam if you feel like you're what Perry Binder, MD, calls "visually clumsy." Binder, who is an opthalmologist from the Gordon Binder Weiss Vision Institute in San Diego, recommends annual eye exams. Weather changes can also affect your ability to see. "Gray days without bright sunlight means less contrast, so people can't see as well under such circumstances," Binder tells WebMD. Because the sun sets earlier in the winter we lose light earlier. That's why adding lighting to dark passageways and stairwells is even more important during the winter months.

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