As Hoosiers continue to face heavy snowfall and very cold temperatures in the coming days, state health officials remind everyone of wintertime hazards and how to stay healthy and injury free while trying to clear driveways and sidewalks of snow and ice.
“When working to remove snow, remember that being in colder temperatures puts an extra strain on the heart,” said Dr. William VanNess, state health commissioner. “Those with known heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or simply a male or female over 50 years of age should consult a physician before doing any type of snow removal. Anytime you do heavy outdoor work this winter, dress warmly and work slowly. Your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.”
The good news is that shoveling snow can actually be good exercise if done correctly.Some simple tips that can prevent injury include
• Warm up by stretching and doing a few exercises before shoveling;
• Avoid smoking or eating a large meal before shoveling;
• Dress warmly in layers and wear a hat. Be sure to cover your neck;
• Plan before shoveling snow. Shovel heavy snow in stages. Start by skimming off the snow from the top and then remove the bottom layer. Don’t overload the shovel;
• Avoid rushing and allow enough time to do the work. Follow a slow and steady pace and take frequent breaks to stand up and stretch;
• Watch what you are shoveling/blowing. Don’t let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces;
• Use a shovel that’s comfortable for your height and strength. Don’t use one that’s too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage;
• Push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist;
• Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side as it could stress your back;
• Breathing cold air dehydrates the body, so drink water during breaks.
Operating a snow blower can also pose a hazard if the user isn’t careful. Finger and hand lacerations and finger amputations can occur. Take precaution when operating a snow blower by reading the instruction manual prior to using and becoming familiar with the specific safety hazards and unfamiliar features.
“Snow blowers, like any heavy duty equipment, can be hazardous and need to be operated with caution,” revealed VanNess. “Using snow blowers have become commonplace, so people often don’t realize the risks. Electric snow blower cords can get buried in snow and cause falls, so make sure you know where the cord is at all times.”
As people spend the majority of their time indoors this time of year, it is a good reminder to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide.
The colorless, odorless gas can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. To protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning, officials recommend taking these precautions:
• Always use portable generators, camp stoves, barbecue and charcoal grills outside and 20 feet away from windows, doors and vents to prevent deadly CO poisoning;
• Ensure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector and check that the batteries are working;
• Become familiar with symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and confusion.
For more information, persons can visit www.StateHealth.in.gov.