The scoop on shoveling
The National Safety Council offers these tips for shoveling snow safely:
- If you have heart trouble, are over 40 or are fairly inactive, don’t shovel without your doctor’s permission.
- Don’t shovel immediately after eating or while smoking. The body draws blood to the stomach to aid digestion and away from the limbs, where you’ll need the energy. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry to the heart, lungs and working muscles.
- Push the snow as you shovel. It’s easier on your back than lifting the snow out of the way. And fill only half of a small shovel or one-fourth of a large one.
- Lift with legs bent and your back straight. By bending and “sitting” into the movement, you’ll keep your spine upright and less stressed. Your shoulders, torso and thighs can do the work for you.
- When tossing the snow from the shovel, avoid twisting your spine. Instead, face into the direction you want the snow to go and throw directly ahead.
Cold-weather common sense
Besides buttoning up your overcoat, do these things before heading out:
- Bundle up in lots of thin layers like a T-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a pullover and a parka. If you feel too warm, remove a layer before you perspire. Perspiration raises your risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
- Double up on socks. When you buy snow boots, make sure they’re roomy enough to accommodate two pairs of socks. It’s important for there to be enough room to allow warm air to circulate between layers.
- Cover your head and neck. The head and neck lose heat faster than any other part of the body, so don a snuggly cap and a woolen scarf.
- Wear mittens. They keep hands warmer than gloves, which expose more areas to cold air. It’s a good idea to keep an extra pair in your coat pockets in case the ones you’re wearing get wet.
Even die-hard summer folk find it difficult to resist the call of a crisp, clear wintry day. But whether you’re out building a snowman with your grandkids or heading off to work as usual, you need to take special care before venturing out during the coldest months of the year, or you could be susceptible to hypothermia or frostbite. On the next page, find out what you should know about these cold-weather conditions.
What are the symptoms?
Hypothermia occurs when the body is exposed to frigid air so long that it loses more heat than it can generate. The signs? Shivering; cold, pale skin; slowed breathing; clumsy movements; and slurred speech. Hypothermia also causes victims to become disoriented, so they’re often unaware of the danger they’re in.
Who’s at risk?
You’re at special risk if you’re elderly, very lean, have heart disease or untreated diabetes or hypothyroidism. Consuming too much alcohol or too many drugs also raises your risk.
Bring a hypothermia victim indoors as quickly as possible, and call for medical help. Change the person into warm, dry clothing and cover with blankets.
What are the symptoms?
The hands, face, ears and nose are easy targets for frostbite, a condition that occurs when the skin and underlying tissues freeze. There are two kinds of frostbite: Gray or yellowish patches are a sign of superficial frostbite. The skin stays soft but becomes red and flaky after thawing. Deep frostbite is marked by waxy, pale skin. The frostbitten area feels cold and hard and turns blue or purple as it thaws.
Who’s at risk?
Anyone is susceptible, but those with circulatory problems are especially vulnerable.
Come in from the cold as soon as you realize you’ve been frostbitten, and remove tight clothing. Call for medical help and thaw the affected area in warm water (102 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit). It usually takes 20 to 40 minutes for tissues to soften. A tingling, burning sensation means circulation to the area has been restored. A warning: Don’t use water hotter than 106 degrees Fahrenheit—while the area may be numb, it can still burn! Also: Don’t walk on frostbitten feet. Sit where you can dangle them, and wait for help.