Winter is settling in so the chances of snow, sleet, ice and colder temperatures will increase. As you make your way through the winter months, it is important be cautious outside.
A necessary evil after a snow storm, snow removal poses a health risk for many people. Snow shoveling is more than a pain in the back. This strenuous activity can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. Cold air can also make it more difficult to breathe. Individuals with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure or strokes should not shovel snow.
If you must shovel snow, do it as soon as possible after the storm. Snow is heavier after it has been on the ground for a few days, often melting slightly and re-freezing, creating a solid chunk of snow and ice rather than powdery, just-fallen snow. Also, make sure that you are properly hydrated and have prepared your body for shoveling by warming up. Jog in place or do some jumping jacks before you begin to shovel, as this will get your blood flowing before you begin. Also, be sure to take your time and move slowly when shoveling snow. Shoveling too fast increases your chances of spraining or pulling a muscle.
Walking on ice
Icy patches on sidewalks or driveways can be difficult to see. The slips and falls that come with them can be serious. If you come across a patch that you believe may be icy, tap the edge of the area with your foot to check. Shoes with gripping soles provide better traction and make walking safer throughout the winter. Also, keep your hands out of your pockets, as this will help you to keep balance on a slippery surface.
If possible, don’t carry heavy items like shopping bags with you when walking on slippery surfaces. This can change your center of balance, making you more likely to slip and fall.
When getting out of your vehicle, look around to make sure there are no icy spots near your vehicle. If you think that you have parked on a slippery area move your vehicle to a safer spot. It’s better to take a few extra steps than risk falling in a parking lot. Also, if you must get in or out of your car while on ice, use the vehicle for balance and support.
Frostbite occurs when skin and its underlying tissue are exposed to very cold temperatures and freezing conditions. Skin that appears waxy or hard and has a gray tone may have frostbite. The damaged skin may also itch or burn and may turn red in color as the affected area thaws.
The first step to treating frostbite is to get out of the cold. Get inside to a warm place as soon as possible. Once inside, remove any wet clothing. If you cannot get out of the cold, place your hands under your arms to warm them. Also, cover areas that can be most affected by frostbite (nose and ears) with a scarf and try not to walk if your feet may have frostbite, as this will make the condition worse.
Frostbite is generally treated by gradually warming the skin. Place hands or feet in warm water, between 104 to 107 degrees and wrap other affected areas in a warm blanket. It is important not to apply direct heat to an affected area, as you may not feel a burn on already numb skin. Remember to seek the treatment of a medical professional as soon as possible if you think you may have frostbite.