An upsurge in injuries from falls on icy pavements and roads has prompted public warnings for people to walk cautiously.
Hospital emergency departments have been crowded with large numbers arriving for treatment for broken bones suffered from slips and falls.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin reported a “significant increase” in the numbers being brought into casualty department with ice-related injuries.
A spokesman told the Herald: “Broken wrists and ankles have increased significantly. But most of the increase seem to be among younger people.
There is not the same level of increase in hip fractures because older people do not appear to be going out of their homes at the moment.”
A consultant working at St James’ Hospital in Dublin said some of the fractures suffered in falls on ice resembled car crash injuries. A large number of young people suffered very severe high-intensity fractures requiring immediate surgery.
He warned the public to assume every pavement was covered in ice and to walk more slowly and carefully. Non-slip footwear is essential. Leather soles fail to provide a safe grip, he warned.
Cork University Hospital reported a 10-fold increase in the number of patients with broken bones being treated on a single day during the Christmas period. On a single day, 55 fracture cases were treated, 10 times more than normal.
The same number were treated on Christmas Day at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick fractures – this would normally be the number treated in a whole week.
At University Hospital Galway, 110 fracture cases required surgery between December 22 and 29, compared with 41 cases for the same period in 2008.
Sligo General Hospital also reported more than 120 patients required emergency surgery between December 14 and 31.
And at Mayo General Hospital from December 25 to 30, there were 182 patients who attended the emergency department, with 30 cases requiring immediate surgery.
In Dublin, casualty figures at Tallaght Hospital rose by 7pc; Beaumont by 4pc; the Mater by 15pc; and Connolly Hospital, in Blanchardstown, by 25pc.
John Hennessy, HSE assistant national director for acute hospitals, said: “Reports from a selection of hospitals suggest that fractures and sprains as a result of falls on the ice are among the most common injuries being seen at emergency departments.”
Age Action warned that many old people may be trapped in their homes because of fears of falling on ice.
The organisation appealed to the public to ensure elderly people living alone had enough supplies of food, fuel and medicine.