Keep Yourself Safe When Shoveling Snow

By Scott Sarvay

Keep Yourself Safe When Shoveling Snow

February 1, 2011 Updated Feb 1, 2011 at 4:23 PM EDT

UNDATED (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Clearing your driveway and sidewalks is an important chore but keeping yourself in good health is vital.

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart, and shoveling is already a vigorous physical activity even for healthy individuals. Shovelers also are at risk for hypothermia, a decrease in body temperature, if they are not dressed appropriately for the weather conditions.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or a history of heart attacks, it is best to avoid shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold.

Medical Director of Emergency Services at Dupont Hospital Dr. Scott Mann says, “If you begin to experience shortness of breath, it's wise to stop what you're doing. If the condition persists—or if you begin to experience chest pain—call 911 immediately because in the case of a heart attack, time is muscle."

Whenever possible, try to avoid shoveling snow by hiring someone to do it or using alternatives including salts, deicing sprays, heated sidewalk mats or snow blowers.

If you must shovel snow, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health recommends taking the following steps to minimize your risk of injury:
-Warm up with light stretching exercises.
-Wear warm clothing, including a hat, scarf, gloves and slip-resistant, high-traction footwear.
-Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or energy drinks which can elevate your heart rate.
-Choose an ergonomic shovel with a small blade. A shovel that's too long, too short, or hard to grip will make the work more difficult.
-Try to push the snow off to the side rather than lifting it. If you must lift it, squat with your knees bent to relieve pressure on your back. Don't tackle a foot of snow at once, but remove it several inches at a time. Walk with the shovel to where you want to dump the snow rather than twisting your body to throw the snow over your shoulder.
-Avoid large shoveling jobs by clearing snow several times throughout the day.
-Pace yourself by taking frequent rest breaks.

If you are diabetic, be sure to check your blood sugar after shoveling to ensure that your blood sugar does not drop too low.

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