Cold Air...Take Care
New England winters conjure up visions of picturesque snow-capped
hills and gently floating snowflakes…until you realize that a foot of
soggy snow is blocking your driveway.
In most cases, modern technology comes to the rescue. A few swipes with
a snow blower and you're off to work or school. But winter weather
maintenance comes with its own set of health hazards.
Emergency medicine physicians see plenty of snow blower-related mishaps.
One of the most common is hand injury. Experts warn that even though the
snow blower may be switched off, the motion of removing snow from a
clogged chute can cause the blade to spin at full force. If you need to
clear the chute, use a broom handle or other long object, never your
If you deal with snow the old-fashioned way, there's the danger of a
sudden heart attack from heavy shoveling. According to physicians, it's
not just the exertion. Cold air can trigger symptoms of angina in people
with heart disease.
Follow these heart healthy tips from the American Heart Association:
Take frequent rest breaks while shoveling so you don't
overstress your heart.
Don't eat a heavy meal right before or after shoveling. This can
cause your heart to work harder.
Use a small shovel. Lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure.
It is safer to lift smaller amounts more frequently. When
possible, push the snow.
Avoid alcohol immediately before and after shoveling. Alcohol
can make you feel warm and may cause you to underestimate the
extra strain your body is under in the cold.
If you have a medical condition, or are middle-aged or older,
and anticipate needing to shovel this winter, consult your
Learn the signs of a heart attack. Even if you're not sure it's
a heart attack, call 911 and have it checked out immediately.