Winter health tips: How to protect your head, eyes, skin and more

Jan. 19, 2022
father kisses his daughter. In an effort to keep her healthy and safe, UCHealth provides some winter health tips.
In an effort to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe, UCHealth experts offer some winter health tips. Source: Getty Images.

The winter months can be hard on our bodies.

Whether you click into skis, buckle on a snowboard, ride a bike with fat tires, lace up ice skates or strap on snowshoes, health experts encourage you to follow these winter health tips so you can do your part to keep yourself and others as safe as possible. Those venturing outdoors need to protect their heads, skin and eyes. Plus, it’s vital to stay warm and safe during the winter.

The top winter health tips to protect yourself

Protect your head

“Snow is soft, but it can also be as hard as concrete,” said Dr. Laura Sehnert, an emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “A helmet can save you.”

Concussions and other head injuries are most common when skiing at high speeds or in the trees. If you do have a significant crash with a helmet, invest in a new one as the foam in the helmet may have become compressed and may not fully protect your head.

Read more about sports concussions and protocols.

Protect your eyes

“Injuries to the eye can be prevented simply by protecting your eyes,” said Dr. Nathan Hamburger, an ophthalmologist in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Regardless of your outdoor winter activity, wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes from snow blindness, dry eyes and eye trauma.

Learn more about protecting your eyes all winter long.

Protect your skin

Select a broad-spectrum sunscreen for protection against both UVA and UVB rays, as both may contribute to skin cancer. Snow and ice are reflective, which means the sun can hit you from above and below.

Read “Sunscreen 101” to better protect your skin from cancer and premature aging.

Protect your extremities

Dress appropriately to help ward off the potential of frostbite. Clothes that are too tight, permeable to wind or that don’t breathe or wick away moisture can quickly cause issues.

“If clothes don’t wick, get wet and stay wet, it can really predispose you to frostbite,” said Dr. David Cionni, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Pay special attention to the hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears, cheeks and nose, as they are at the end of the blood flow.

Protect your body (by developing your core)

“A stable core helps reduce your potential for injury and optimize performance,” said Dave Grinnell, a physical therapist and board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedics at UCHealth SportsMed Clinic in Steamboat Springs.

Fundamentally, a stable core protects the spinal cord, which is the main information highway by which the brain communicates with the rest of the body. With a stable core, you can do most activities, including skiing and snowboarding, more efficiently.

Grinnell recommends a number of exercises to strengthen the core – planks, pushups, Pilates, yoga, and dynamic stretches such as cat and camel. And for strength and endurance in the legs, add in some squats and lunges.

Read more about strengthening your core for a better winter recreation season.

Protect each other

No one wants a ski adventure canceled due to illness. One of the easiest things you can do to stay healthy? Get vaccinated.

“You may be the one getting vaccinated, but everyone around you benefits,” said Lauren Bryan, infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “Flu shots take two weeks to fully kick in and for your body to start building immunity. COVID-19 vaccinations take 14 days after the vaccine series is completed to be fully effective. Get your shots, the sooner, the better.”

About the author

Lindsey Reznicek is a communications specialist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She has spent the last ten years working in marketing and communications in health care, an industry she never considered but one to which she's contributed through her work in media relations, executive messaging and internal communications. She considers it an honor to interact with patients and write about their experiences; it’s what keeps her coming back to work each day.

A native of Nebraska, Lindsey received a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a focus on public relations, from the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University – she bleeds purple.

She could see a Broadway musical every week, is a huge animal lover, enjoys a good shopping trip, and likes spending time in the kitchen. Lindsey and her husband have two daughters and enjoy hiking in the summer and skiing all winter long.