Winter Storms Trigger Warnings Over Risks of Shoveling Snow


shovelingsnowA chain of winter storms sweeping through the Midwest and Northeast in late January and early February triggered a host of warnings from healthcare providers and public officials regarding the potential health risks of shoveling snow.

“It is time for a very important warning, one which many people forget, year after year,” Dr. Brian McDonough wrote for CBS Philadelphia Jan. 26. “The stress and strain of shoveling snow can cause all sorts of problems.”

According to a widely cited study, there are approximately 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies related to snow clearing in the U.S. each year.

Fatalities associated with shoveling snow are usually related to cardiac incidents. As The Week explained in its Feb. 4 coverage, shoveling snow is demanding cardiac exercise, and yet the cold temperatures can make it difficult for blood vessels to deliver adequate oxygen to the heart.

People are also likely to start shoveling snow without a proper warmup, and the activity includes arm movement that can rapidly raise blood pressure. These combined factors lead to a high risk of cardiac events, especially for people with existing heart conditions or anyone over 50.

Those not at risk for heart attacks can easily hurt their backs or suffer frostbite damage if they aren’t mindful of their technique and don’t gear up properly.

Satiric news site The Onion even joined the chorus and published some snow shoveling tips Feb. 4, including “Bending from the back can damage your spine; always damage your knees instead,” “Be sure to wear a frostbite whistle at all times,” and “If all else fails, pay a real man to do it for you.”

Though offered in jest, these tips may not be far off in suggesting that it’s sometimes worth hiring a professional to remove snow, especially for people at particular risk of health problems.

“When customers choose us for snow removal services, some of the things they take into consideration is their well being and the well being of those on their properties,” says Hayley Katzenberger, Marketing Assistant, Chapel Valley Landscape Company. “Choosing a qualified professional to oversee snow and ice management is key to their peace of mind and reducing the chance of incidents.”

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