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Emergency Physician Offers Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

December 27, 2012

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743

Emergency Physician offers Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

Ware, MA (December 27, 2012) - The winter season brings the cold weather, snow and a list of injuries that are common with the season, said Morris Leibowitz, MD, board certified Emergency Physician at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.

According to a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, US hospitals treat on average about 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies a year related to shoveling snow. The study, the first national survey of snow-shoveling injuries, said the activity places demands on the cardiovascular system and can raise heart rates above recommended upper limits for unfit people. Two-thirds of shoveling injuries occurred in men, and 15% of injuries were in children under 18 years old.

“Snow shoveling is no different than any other physical activity, if you have any health concerns you should ask your doctor first,” said Dr Leibowitz who offers these snow shoveling safety tips:

• Avoid caffeine or nicotine before beginning. These are stimulants, which may increase your heart rate. This places extra stress on the heart. Cigarette smokers can get short of breath quite easily. Shortness of breath can increase your chances of heart and lung problems.
• Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body. Begin shoveling slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your heart. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
• Use the proper length snow shovel. If the handle is too short you will be bending over more than you need to. This can cause back pain.
• Protect your back from injury by lifting correctly. Stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees (not the back) and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow.
• If you have heart or lung trouble always talk to your doctor before you exercise or shovel snow.

“If you are using a snow blower incorrectly, you can strain or injure your back,” notes Dr. Leibowitz. “Snow blowers are designed to remove snow at a particular rate of speed so do not push or force the equipment, let it do the work for you. If the snow blower clogs with ice, the blade may stop turning but the engine may not shut off,” said Dr. Leibowitz. “Reaching inside the blades can cause damage to hands and fingers when the blades start turning.”
“Most importantly, listen to your body and stop if you feel pain of any kind,” said Dr. Leibowitz. “If you experience an injury or symptoms such as chest pain, shoulder, neck or arm pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea, even temporarily, call your doctor or come to the Emergency Room for evaluation.”

The mission of the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department is to provide timely and exceptional care. With our new 30-minute pledge, our goal is for a provider to see every patient within 30 minutes of their arrival at our facility. Check out iTriage, a smartphone-based application for Android and iPhone to see our actual ER wait times.

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