SUNDAY, Jan. 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Icicles may be beautiful, but they can also be dangerous, an emergency medicine doctor warns.
"An icicle is like a sharp, stiletto-shoe heel-like dagger. Coupled with the forceful dynamics of impact from falling a sizeable distance, a person can sustain serious injury," Dr. Mark Cichon, chair of emergency medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., said in a university news release.
When walking outside during winter, you need to be "mindful of ice above your head and below your feet. Avoid walking under hanging ice and walk carefully on ice-coated sidewalks," Cichon advised.
You should heed signs warning of falling ice and stay away from closed-off sidewalks and other locations, he noted.
"It may be annoying to have to walk around a roped-off area but it is better to take extra safety precautions than to wind up injured and in the emergency department," Cichon said.
If you need icicles or snow removed from your roof, it's best to hire professionals.
"No one should be on a snow-covered roof unless you are a professional specially equipped and trained to handle the dangers. Paying a service may be a wise investment, rather than risking your health," Cichon said.
"I've had patients who fell off ladders and the roof while removing heavy snow and also those who got splinters in their eyes when knocking off hanging icicles," he added.
If you do decide to remove ice and snow yourself, wear safety glasses and a hardhat.
"Lightly tap icicles with a long-handled shovel to gently dislodge rather than giving a forceful whack. Make sure people and pets are not around to suffer injury, and it is best to make others aware of your action," Cichon said.
"Kids especially can be tempted to knock off frozen spikes and they are the ones most prone to injury. Talk to your kids in advance about safety," he urged.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more winter health and safety tips.