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Here in Austin, we rarely get snow or ice, but most of us have friends and family who live in colder places. If you’re visiting loved ones this holiday, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of colder weather and stay safe! 

For those with balance and dizziness disfunction, walking in the snow and ice is doubly dangerous. If it is difficult to sense your center of gravity, then it will be especially difficult to be able to maintain balance on slippery surfaces. Here are some tips to keep you safe if you must walk along treacherous paths: 

  1. It’s dangerous to go alone – as much as you can, go places with someone else. If they have good balance, hold on to them arm-in-arm to steady yourself if needed. If you can’t go with someone, make sure that you bring your phone with you – even if you just need to run out to the car! – in case you lose balance and need help. 
  1. Invest in some Yaktrax – Yaktrax are a stretchy webbing of grippy metal coils that goes over your regular shoes. These increase traction on slippery surfaces such as ice and smooth snow. Though take care to take them off when inside because they can scratch floors! 
  1. Walk like a penguin – in icy and slippery situations, walk flat footed with shorter, slower steps and center your weight on the forward foot. Note: This is only when walking somewhere slippery, once you are back on safe terrain it’s best to go back to landing on your heel, taking long strides, and walking at a quick, functional pace. 
  1. Look for the bumpy snow – as much as you can, don’t walk on icy patches or smooth snow. If you have to walk across snow, choose the crunchiest/bumpiest path, whether it’s tire tracks through the snow or previous pedestrian footprints.  
  1. Don’t carry what you don’t need – carrying heavy items will alter your center of gravity and make it harder for you to balance. Carry only what you absolutely need to at any given time and ask for help carrying heavier items. If you carry a purse, make sure that it goes across your body and only holds the essentials. 
  1. Step down safely – if you have to go up/down steps and curbs, make sure that you’re stepping down and not out. It’s often easier to go down sideways. If there is a handrail or something to hold onto, make sure that it is 100% stationary (don’t use an open car door).  

If you’re somewhere chilly, keep in mind that you are using more energy to maintain your body temperature and you will fatigue faster when walking around. Less energy means more fatigue, which in turn means more difficulty balancing! Take breaks to warm up and make sure you’re eating enough and staying hydrated.  

If you are anxious about navigating unfamiliar, colder landscapes, feel free to come see us at 360 Balance & Dizziness. We can help you practice your strategies and help decrease your dizziness to improve your safety in any weather!