Dr. Dollinger: Shoveling and Snow Blowers

For any seasoned upstate New Yorker, snow is a fact of life. Even so, every year, 16 – 17,000 people are hurt and/or end up in the emergency room due to shoveling or ice removal. Of these numbers, men sustain the most injuries, and children are included as well, with injuries from being accidentally hit in the head by shovels. In addition, about 6,000 people are injured by snow blowers annually. Fortunately, a little common sense goes a long way.

With shoveling, we have to deal with the exposure to cold. So, of course, wearing layers, gloves, and a hat are necessary to avoid frost nip or frostbite. Depending on the amount of snow, shoveling can easily fall into the ranks of strenuous exercise, which then requires warming up, as with any vigorous exercise. Anyone who has a heart condition also needs to keep this in mind, along with the extra stress of the cold, as this will strain the heart and could lead to a heart attack.

As for the strain of the simple act of shoveling, good advice is to pick up smaller amounts of snow at a time, making sure that you lift with your knees and avoid twisting when you dump the snow, since this can injure your back, neck, and shoulders. It also doesn’t help that the design of the shovel has not been updated in a long time. There are a few newer ergonomic shovels on the market, however, which feature bent handles. The bent handle reduces the distance you have to bend over to pick up the snow, which reduces the strain on your body. Overall, it’s best to shovel repeatedly during a storm, so that you can keep up with the snow.

With snow blowers, again, use common sense. Always read the instructions. Never stick your hands into the snow blower. Instead, shut off the engine and let it sit for a few minutes. If you reach in too quickly to clear a block, there could still be built up energy, which causes recoil and, well, I bet you can fill in the rest. Always be careful when adding fuel; never add fuel to a hot engine. Don’t try to fix the snow blower on your own. If your snow blower requires a power cord, of course be careful never to run over the cord while the snow blower is on. Lastly, never allow children to be on or around a snow blower or snow plow. If you have your child on your lap and you hit something, the child could fall off and get accidentally run over. So, I’ll say it one last time, just use common sense.

If you’d like more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.

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