Shoveling snow is a major winter activity in many parts of the United States. Some people even consider shoveling a form of exercise. In reality, about 15 minutes of shoveling counts as moderate physical activity. Keep these tips in mind to decrease your risk of illness or injury:
- Warm up and stretch before you get started.
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Keep in mind that freshly fallen, powdery snow is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down variety.
- Push, don't lift, the snow. It's easier on your back and uses less energy than lifting.
- Dress in layers; if you work up a sweat, you'll be able to remove some of those layers. Wear a hat and gloves to protect you extremities, wrap on a scarf, throw on some wool socks and wear waterproof boots to protect your body from the cold temperature.
- If your body is telling you to stop, listen to it. Stop if you feel pain or start seeing heart attack warning signs - chest pain, shoulder, neck or arm pain, dizziness, sweating or nausea, and/or shortness of breath - get medical help immediately.
- Frostbite occurs when cold temperatures damage the skin and blood vessels, and usually affects the face, feet or fingertips. The initial signs of frost bite are numbness or skin turning whitish blue in the exposed areas.
If you have access to a snow blower, your task of snow removal is made much easier; however, there are hazards associated specifically with this handy piece of machinery. Be safe with these tips from National Safety Council, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
- If the blower jams, turn it off and make sure it's completely de-energized before performing maintenance.
- Keep your hands away from the moving parts while the snow blower is in operation.
- Do not drink alcohol and use a snow blower.
- Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space, like a garage or work shop.
- Refuel your snow blower when it is off, never when it is running to reduce the risk of burn injuries.
Keep in mind that for most of us, winter is a temporary condition and everything takes a little extra time. We can get through it yearly by being smart and safe!