Be Prepared for Winter: The Scoop on Shoveling

Now that we’ve had our first substantial snowfall, it’s time for a ‘friendly’ reminder about shoveling safety. While shoveling can be a great workout, an opportunity to enjoy the cool, crisp winter air, and a chance to see the neighbor kids all bundled up, throwing snowballs and making snowmen, it’s also a common cause of trips to the ER. Shoveling injuries range from minor aches to more serious pulled muscles to fatal heart attacks (those with a personal history of heart disease or stroke are especially at risk).

Shoveling puts a significant amount of stress on the body—causing a spike in blood pressure and an increased heart rate—in a very short amount of time. Even walking through heavy snow can put a strain on your heart. Take these safety precautions when it’s time to remove the snow from your driveway, walkway, sidewalk, or alley.

Practical tips when shoveling:

• If your shovel feels too heavy, use a lighter/smaller shovel so that it feels comfortable for your height and strength.
• Make sure your shovel isn’t bent or damaged.
• Take breaks. Pace yourself.
• If you become overheated, stop what you’re doing and go inside.
• Drink fluids.
• Don’t try to fling the snow long distances. When possible, push the snow. If you must lift the snow, lift with your legs. Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder. The twisting motion can strain your back.
• Dress in light, layered, water-repellant clothing. Wear a hat. Wear boots with slip-resistant soles.
• If you feel pain, STOP. While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, many heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. If you or someone you are with begins to have chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away.

Practical tips when using a snow blower:

• Never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower. If the snow is compacted, wait at least five seconds.
• Don’t leave the snow blower unattended while it’s running.
• Add fuel before starting the snow blower, never when the engine is running or hot.

If you feel like shoveling might be too much of a strain on your heart, hire someone to help, or ask a friend or family member to do the job for you. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of freshly fallen snow.

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