Keep snow shoveling from leaving you hospitalized

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Picking up a snow shovel and digging out is a certainty in the winter when you live in Connecticut, but if you are not mindful you can also end up at the local emergency department.

“When the snow is really heavy, we recommend that people push it to the side and then do the minimal amount of lifting necessary,” said Hartford Hospital’s Dr. Kenneth Robinson. “So push it to the side and then lift. Remember to lift with your legs and not your back.”

Dr. Robinson, who heads up the emergency department at Hartford Hospital, treats a number of back injuries.

“If you find, while you are shoveling, that you get chest pain or shortness of breath, you need to go inside and rest,” said Dr. Robinson. “If you find symptoms don’t go away within five minutes or so, you should consider calling a doctor or ambulance.”

Don’t underestimate the cold weather impact on your heart, especially if you are more at risk for heart disease.

“Don’t do it for more than perhaps 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Take a rest, hydrate again, go in the house,” said cardiologist Dr. Jack Hauser. “If you don’t have to do it at 5 or 6 a.m., where most heart attacks or strokes occur compared to later in the day, wait til the afternoon or the late morning.”

The heart beats faster and blood pressure goes up because, as Dr. Hauser points out, clearing the driveway and sidewalk is an aerobic activity. Something else to think about is the so called “morning surge,” when the blood pressure is slightly elevated.

“When you actually awaken, your blood pressure shoots up, and that is a main contributing factor as to why so many heart attacks and strokes occur in the early morning hours,” said Dr. Hauser.

Roof falls can also send you to the emergency room. If you’re trying to clear the snow off your roof, Dr. Robinson advises to have someone else trained to do it safely do it for you.

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