Winter Safety

News Image

What you need to know to have a go at the snow

If you enjoy the thought of Jack Frost nipping at your nose, winter is probably your favorite time of year. If you prefer Netflix and a warm fire, then you’re probably not dreading that next winter weather advisory.

Getting outside and breathing the crisp, cold air of a winter wonderland can be good for the mind, body and soul. It’s also important to your overall health to plan ahead before your winter adventure begins so you can conquer the cold safely.

Shoveling snow

“I love shoveling snow,” said almost no one. While some may see shoveling the snow as an adventure,  others see it as a  brutally exhausting chore.

According to the National Safety Council, nearly 100 people die each year from shoveling snow. In addition to this, there is an average of 11,500 injuries that occur and require a trip to the emergency room.

If you do decide to take on Old Man Winter and its offspring (snow), you need to be thoughtful and take precautions when shoveling your driveway. Also, don’t forget, it may not be a  bad idea to pay a teenager/young adult in the neighborhood to do it for you.

“Don’t just get it done,” says Reggina W. Yandila, DO, an Internal Medicine Physician at Adena Health System. “There are things to consider before exerting yourself out in the cold weather.”    Reggina Yandila, D.O.

The cold causes your blood vessels to constrict, which causes less oxygen to be delivered to the heart. When you are out shoveling snow or even wrestling with a heavy snow blower, it can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase suddenly, which can cause clots to form and clog up vessels in your heart. 

So, what can you do? We realize you’re hoping we suggest avoiding it at all costs, but there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for snow shoveling:

  • Stretch for 10 minutes before going outside – This increases blood flow and breathing and warms up the muscles before doing the hard work of shoveling.
  • Dress appropriately – Wear hats, gloves, and dress in layers with shoes or boots that have good traction.
  • Take breaks – Don’t try to do it all at once. Take your time and plan small breaks where you can come inside, warm up and drink some water to stay hydrated.
  • Stay hydrated – Drink water before, during and after you shovel snow.
  • Push the snow versus lifting it – This will help by not putting extra strain on your back, neck and arms.
  • Tell someone what you’re doing – They can periodically check on your well-being while you’re shoveling.
  • Pay attention to your body – Are you experiencing tightness in your chest, a racing heart, shortness of breath, abnormal cold sweats, sharp pain or dizziness? Don’t overdo it. Listen to the signals your body may be sending and stop or take a break if something doesn’t feel right.

Dress for success

Baby, it’s cold outside. It’s not just a campy Christmas song, it’s also a warning to dress warmly. Don’t concern yourself with being fashionable. Focus on being warm and safe. 

 “Most of us probably remember as kids our parents or an adult telling us to wear a hat when we went outside – and there’s really something to that,” says Dr. Yandila. “The truth is you can lose heat from other areas of your body, it’s just that sometimes we forget to cover our heads. Body heat rises and escapes from your head. Wearing a hat reduces that heat loss. It’s also a good idea to cover your nose and mouth when you are outside in the cold to help you breathe in warm air and decrease the chances of irritating your nasal passages and lungs.”

Layering your clothes is a good idea. That way, if you do start to feel hot, you can peel off outer layers so you can remain comfortable.

If the thought of being cold AND wet sounds less than charming, wear a moisture-wicking under layer to help keep you dry and reduce the risk of feeling chilled from damp material against your skin.

White is a very bright color – especially when it covers everything in sight. If you have sensitive eyes, you may want to consider investing in a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the snow. 

When in doubt, never forget the basics of winter wear: warm gloves, socks and boots. Your extremities (hands and feet) are where frostbite can start, so it’s important to keep them warm. Hand and foot warmers can be a great addition for times of extended outdoor exposure.

Prepare your sleigh

It’s often best to stay in during bad winter weather, but if you need to venture out, here are a few precautionary tips to keep your travels safe:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going - Slippery streets and black ice already make for extra hazardous driving, so don’t be in a hurry.
  • Keep your gas tank filled - It adds a little weight for stability, and you can stay warm and keep your car running if you get stuck in traffic.
  • Keep a car emergency kit in your vehicle – From jumper cables and flashlights to ice scrapers/snowbrushes, portable phone charger/battery, food and water, a few extra safety items can literally be a lifesaver if you’re stuck in place for hours.

     “Another good idea is to pack extra blankets in your car, just in case you get stranded,” says Dr. Yandila. “And we always tell folks to make sure they have their medical information with them should they happen to get into an accident.”

    Although winter weather can be challenging, it can also be beautiful, enjoyable and safe if you’re ready for it. Always listen to your body and don’t overdo it.