Adena Health Focus January 18, 2021

Winter Safety: Take it Slow in the Snow

Reggina W. Yandila, DO is a Primary Care Provider with Adena Internal Medicine who wears many hats. She has been with Adena Health System for almost 15 years. While she still sees patients, she also connects with the greater community by serving as a member on the Adena Board of Trustees and serving as the Adena Central Regional Medical Director. As Medical Director, Dr. Yandila meets with Adena colleagues to constantly improve patient care using education, technology and feedback from the communities they serve, such as the ECF (Extended Care Facility) Coalition – a group dedicated to elder & long-term care patients and reducing their hospital admissions. Through her many roles, Dr. Yandila helps bring the Adena mission of serving our communities to life.


Push, Don’t Lift

According to the National Safety Council, roughly 100 people die each year from shoveling snow with an average of 11,500 injuries that occur and require a trip to the emergency room. People need to be thoughtful and take precautions when going out to shovel their driveway. “Don’t just ‘get it done’,” says Dr. Yandila, “there are things to consider before exerting yourself out in the cold weather.” The cold causes your blood vessels to constrict, this can lead to decreased oxygen to the heart.  When you are out shoveling the snow or using a handy snow blower, this can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to suddenly increase. This action can cause clots to form and clog up vessels of your heart. So, what can you do? Take steps to best adapt and prepare for winter snow shoveling:

  1. 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.
  2. Dress appropriately – wear shoes/boots with good traction, hats, gloves and dress in layers.
  3. Plan breaks – don’t try to do the work all at one time. Take your time and plan small breaks where you can come inside, warm-up and drink some water.
  4. Stay hydrated – drink water before, during and after your time shoveling snow.
  5. Push snow versus lifting it – this will help by not putting extra strain on you back, neck and arms. Using a snow blower or a neighborhood teen is even better.
  6. Tell someone what you are doing – so they can periodically check on your wellbeing while you’re shoveling.
  7. Pay attention to your body – are you experiencing tightness in your chest, heart racing, shortness of breath, abnormal cold sweat or sharp pain, dizziness? Don’t overdo it. Listen to the signals your body may be sending and stop or take a break if something is not right.

Winter Fashion Do’s

Dressing appropriately for cold weather doesn’t mean being fashionable, it’s all about keeping you 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 too that,” says Dr. Yandila. “The truth is you can lose heat from other areas of your body, it is just sometimes we forget to cover our heads.  “Body heat rises and escapes from your head -- wearing a hat reduces that heat loss. It is 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.” Dr. Yandila explains that layering your clothes is a good idea so that if you do start to get hot, you can peel off outer layers so you can remain comfortable. Wearing a moisture wicking underlayer can help keep you dry and reduce the risk of feeling chilled from damp material against your skin. 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. And of course, it’s always a good idea to have warm gloves, socks and boots. Your extremities (hands and feet) are where frostbite can initially occur so it’s important to keep them warm. Hand and foot warmers can be a great addition for times of extended outdoor exposure.

Travel Advisory

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. First, try to give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. Slippery streets and potential black ice already make for extra hazardous driving, so don’t be in a rush. Try to keep your gas tank close to full. It adds a little weight for stability, and should you get delayed in traffic, you can stay warm and keep your car running. You should always keep a car emergency kit in your vehicle, but it can be especially important in the wintertime. “Another good idea is to pack extra blankets in your car,” says Dr. Yandila, “just in case you get stranded. And we always tell folks to make sure they have their medical information with them should they happen to get into an accident.”

Watch for ice getting in and out of the car and wear shoes/boots with good traction to help keep you upright.

Although winter weather can be challenging, by taking extra precautions, it can also be beautiful, enjoyable and safe. Folks age 55 and older, should listen to their bodies and not overdo it. If you do experience pain or injury, contact your Adena Primary Care Provider, an Adena Urgent Care or the Adena Emergency Department for the appropriate treatment.