Winter means building snowmen, ice skating, and enjoying the winter wonderland that’s created by a dusting of snow. But when the snow falls heavily and the temperature drops, it’s important to take a few precautions so you can avoid a trip to the Emergency Department. Here are some reasons to warm up to safety.
1. Shovel carefully Every year, thousands of Americans are treated at hospital emergency departments, doctor’s offices, and clinics for injuries sustained while shoveling snow. If you have a health condition or you’re out of shape, make sure your doctor OKs you to shovel or use a snowblower—especially if you have a heart condition. The sudden exertion of shoveling can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase, potentially triggering a heart attack.
Also make sure that you:
- Shovel early and often. It’s harder on the bod to remove heavy, packed snow.
- Push the snow instead of lifting it. Instead of flinging the snow over your shoulder or off to the side, walk the snow to where you want to dump it.
- Rest often. Pace yourself, stay hydrated, and take frequent breaks.
- Dress appropriately. Wear lightweight, water-repellent clothing; a hat; gloves; and warm socks. Put on shoes or boots with good traction to avoid falling.
If you feel any pain or dizziness, stop shoveling right away. If you have chest pain, call 911 immediately.
2. Prevent falls Whether you’re shoveling snow, walking on icy pavement, or just walking through the house, falls are a common risk during the winter months. Slippery conditions, low lighting, and clutter that blocks common indoor traffic areas mean falls are more likely.
Stay on your feet:
- Don’t go barefoot. Always wear shoes—not slippers—both inside and outside the house.
- If there’s ice or snow on the ground, wear boots or slip-resistant shoes. Walk slowly and purposefully, keeping your hands free for balance.
- Inside, keep clutter like gifts, boxes, and wrapping paper to a minimum. Arrange furniture so that there’s a clear walkway. Keep objects off the floor and electrical cords next to the wall so that you won’t trip over them.
- Maintain good lighting throughout your house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs, so that you can see where you’re walking and avoid any tripping hazards.
3. Warm up wisely
Wood oil, gasoline, natural gas, kerosene, and coal all produce carbon monoxide (CO) when burned. In your home, CO can come from your heating system, cooking appliances, gas generators, or vehicles. When appliances are working right and fumes are properly vented, there’s nothing to worry about. But at high levels, CO poisoning can cause confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.
- Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector, and check it at least twice a year. Replace batteries annually.
- Each year, have an expert check anything in your home that burns gas, oil, or coal—including your chimney. It should be checked or cleaned each year.
- Have a mechanic check your vehicle’s exhaust system once a year, and never leave your car running in the garage—even with the garage door open.
Did you know?
If you get severe carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric oxygen therapy could save your life by rushing oxygen to your heart and brain. Learn more by clicking here.
Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Heart Association; National Safety Council
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