Part of me is wishing for a white Christmas. The holiday lights would look so pretty with a dusting of icy powder. Then again, if it did snow someone would have to shovel the walk and driveway—a strenuous task. Plus, there's the significant risk that the shoveler could wind up hurting himself. According to Dr. Thomas Esposito, chief of the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, each year thousands of people are treated in emergency departments across the United States for heart attacks, broken bones and other injuries related to snow shoveling. Before you head out to clear the snow from your steps, here are a few safety tips to help you stay healthy from the Dr. Esposito and the Loyola University Health System.
- Warm up. Take 5 or 10 minutes to stretch and warm up your muscles.
- Dress appropriately. Wear layers and make sure to cover your skin when outside for long periods of time.
- Use a small shovel. A shovel of wet snow can weigh up to 15 pounds, the smaller your shovel the lighter your load will be.
- Separate your hands on the shovel. Creating space between your hands will increase your leverage on the shovel.
- Lift with your legs, not your back. Make sure your knees are bending and straightening to lift the shovel instead of leaning forward and straightening with your back.
- Shovel frequently. Instead of waiting till the snow piles up, shovel after every two inches of accumulation.
- Push the snow. It's better for your back to push the snow rather than lift it and never throw snow over your shoulders.
- Pace yourself. Take breaks to gently stretch your back, arms and legs.
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. These stimulants increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels and could put added strain on your heart.
- Don't drink before you shovel. Alcohol can dull your senses and make you vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite.
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