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Caution: Thin Ice!

Over 6,000 named lakes in Wisconsin provide many opportunities to play on the ice. How do we know when it’s safe?

Here are some guidelines before going out on the ice.

  • Test the thickness of the ice and retest every ten feet with an ice chisel, ice auger or cordless drill.
  • Wear a life vest under your winter gear (not when traveling in an enclosed vehicle).
  • Carry ice picks to help pull yourself back onto solid ice if you break through.
  • Dress warmly, in layers.
  • Tell people where you’re going and never go out on the ice without a buddy.
  • Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. If you do need to drive on the ice, keep your windows partially open to avoid becoming trapped if your car breaks through.

What should you do if someone falls through the ice? First, call 911. If you can safely reach the victim from shore, use an object such as a rope or jumper cables, then have the person roll or wiggle to shore.

For more information, visit Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ website at dnr.wi.gov.
Author: Liz Kracht, RN, BSN

Liz is the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Winter tips

While there may be little snow on the ground temperatures are dropping and it is never too early to prepare for Wisconsin’s most dominant season, winter. Icy roads, frostbite and snowstorms are just some examples of the dangers you can experience during the winter months.

There is still time to prepare to keep your family happy and healthy when the colder weather sets in.


  • To avoid your gas freezing, try not to let your gas tank get down to less than one-quarter of a tank
  • Keep essential items like blankets, food and water, first aid kit, jumper cables, a candle and lighter – in case you become stranded unexpectedly

At Home

  • Check your heating systems, inspect and clean fireplaces
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items
  • Keep an up-to-date emergency/first aid kit

Dressing for outdoor activities

  • When the temperature is below zero, make sure any exposable skin is covered when outdoors for a prolonged period of time, to avoid frostbite
  • Waterproof items are ideal for young children, who spend a lot of time outdoors
  • Layer multiple clothing pieces to help stay dry

Staying Healthy

Cold and flu season is upon us and ways to stay healthy during the winter include the following:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep a healthy diet; it may be hard to avoid over-eating during the holidays, but a balanced diet will help keep your body in fighting shape during the winter
  • Exercise regularly

Chronic back pain: Tips for keeping your back healthy during winter

Shoveling Snow

In the Midwest, winter typically means icy roads, slippery sidewalks and snowdrifts. These aren’t pleasant for anyone, but they’re especially perilous for individuals who suffer from chronic back pain. Too much snow shoveling or a wrong move on an unsalted sidewalk can mean days or even weeks of pain. Below are a few tips and reminders on how to avoid exacerbated muscle fatigue and back injury throughout the season of snow.

Warm up before doing any strenuous activity | Stretching isn’t just for athletics! Get your heart rate up by jogging in place or doing jumping jacks, then do some simple stretches, focusing on the areas of the body that you’ll be using. For activities like shoveling or carrying large loads, stretch your lower back by touching your fingers as low to the ground as you can without bending your knees, then raising your arms straight above your head while slowly stretching your neck from side to side. Also do some twisting of your trunk and arms back and forth.

Slow down | Take your time—your back will thank you! If there are any existing or potential winter weather hazards, give yourself extra time in your travels. Don’t rush on sidewalks or driveways, and take advantage of railings on stairs. Flailing to catch your balance can cause worsened back pain just as easily as outright falling can. You can also avoid falls by wearing footwear with reliable traction or utilizing a walking stick to enhance your stability.

Don’t take on too much | Whether you’re disposing of your Christmas tree or lugging a large load of shopping from your vehicle, be careful with how much you’re carrying and how you’re carrying it. Never bend at your lower back. Instead, bend at the hips and knees and engage your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight. Distribute the weight of what you’re carrying as equally as you can, and keep it as close to your body as possible. Take breaks when your body tells you it has had enough, and stop what you’re doing if you experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden sharp lower back pain
  • Shooting pains in your legs

If these symptoms do not subside, go to the closest emergency room or call 911.

Stay active | As important as it is to go easy while lifting and walking in hazardous conditions, it’s also important to keep your muscles strong with regular exercise. Strong muscles—especially a strong core—actually help you avoid future injuries by supporting your body! If it’s too cold to go to the gym, try a series of bodyweight exercises. Consult with your clinician to develop an exercise routine that fits your health needs, and you’ll be able to enjoy the season without the extra pains! Many times it is normal to be a little sore or stiff after doing things such as shoveling snow. If the pain is sharp, it prevents you from doing your normal activities for more than a day or two, or you experience shooting pain into your legs or arms, see a healthcare provider. Normal muscle discomfort should subside 1-2 days after the activity.

Author: Dennis Kaster PT, OCS

Dennis is the director for Rehabilitation Services at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point.

Winter Driving: Being Prepared Means Being Safe


Driving can be hazardous when roads are covered with snow, ice or slush. Each winter season in Wisconsin, approximately 45 people are killed and 5,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes. Many of these accidents can be prevented by following these safety tips.

  • Avoid driving, especially if visibility is poor.
  • Wait until the snow is plowed; allow extra time to get to your destination.
  • If you must drive, headlights should be on low beam.

Your vehicle also needs attention.

  • Check the battery. Cold can reduce battery effectiveness by 50 percent.
  • Tire tread, anti-freeze level and windshield wipers should also be checked.
  • Have at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Provide an emergency winter kit in your car that includes blankets, shovel, flashlight and batteries, sand or kitty litter for traction, first aid kit, and high-energy, non-perishable foods. Jumper cables, a tool kit, ice scraper and brush are also essentials.

Plan your travels and keep current on the latest weather. You can find the latest road conditions at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website at www.511wi.gov, or call 511. Preparedness is always the best prevention tool!

Author: Liz Kracht, RN, BSN

Liz is the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator for Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Everybody gets the blues

Everybody gets the blues

Everyone has days when they feel down. It’s normal. Life has its ups and downs. You may experience a feeling of profound grief after a life-changing accident, illness or the loss of a loved one. You may feel an emptiness and loss of purpose following the completion of an important event or project. Financial stress may be pulling you down. These are normal human emotions.

But when do the “blues” become the murky grays of depression?

When we talk about depression, we are referring to overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, emptiness and gloom that last for more than two weeks. These depressive feelings also interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life. When this happens, it’s time to ask for help.

There is hope and help for people with depression.

Depression is a treatable condition; you don’t have to feel like this for the rest of your life. There is help and you don’t have to live through it alone.

If you think that you are depressed or you wonder if someone else may be depressed, take this short quiz.

Author: Michelle Nelson, LCSW

Michelle Nelson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker on the mental health unit at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point.

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