The Dos and Don’ts of Shoveling Snow

When it falls in truckloads snow can create real problems, including hazards to your health, especially when trying to remove it all.

It’s not that we don’t like the white stuff that falls during winter storms like the one bearing on us right now. It’s the havoc that it can create when it falls in truckloads that is such a problem, and a health hazard, especially when trying to remove it all.

Shoveling snow can be dangerous, and not to be taken lightly, particularly if you suffer from back pain or heart trouble. Back strain, sore muscles and heart attacks can be attributed to shoveling. This is because shoveling is very demanding on the human body, more so for those not at their healthiest.           

So treat shoveling as you would any workout. Warm up your body with gentle stretches before you begin. And be realistic about what you can do. Moving snow is heavy work that places stress on your whole body.

Watch what and how much you attempt to shovel. Put small amounts of snow on the shovel. Do your back a favor and do not try to pick up the snow. Pushing it is best.

One of the things that makes shoveling strenuous on your heart is the fact that blood vessels and arteries constrict in the cold. It is the body’s natural reflex in this weather. This, and the fact that shoveling taxes the heart creates the risk for a heart attack.

Keep yourself hydrated when shoveling. Non-caffeinated drinks are best; water is ideal.  

It’s not a contest to determine how quickly you can clear the snow. Take breaks. 

Be mindful of the signs of a heart attack. If you experience chest pain, shoulder, neck or arm pain; dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea; or shortness of breath, and think you're having a heart attack, seek medical help IMMEDIATELY.

If you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease, you should check with your doctor about whether you should be shoveling snow at all.

Be safe!

Courtesy of David Jacob, M.D., chief of the Division of Cardiology at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. The Emergency Department at Saint Peter’s University Hospital is located at the Park Boulevard side entrance of the hospital, which is located at 254 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick. Call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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