Freezing temperatures, slippery sidewalks, and snow-filled driveways—every year these winter woes send nearly 200,000 Americans to the emergency room and are responsible for as many as 100 deaths. Dr. Corey Smith, Director of Summit Medical Group Emergency Medicine, shares tips on how to stay safe from the most common cold weather hazards.
Practice Snow Shovel Safety
Bending and lifting heavy snow—that can weigh up to 20 lbs. per shovel—can cause serious injuries. Anyone with a history of heart problems should let someone else tackle the driveway. Remember these tips to avoid injury:
- Warm up — Stretch your muscles before heading outside.
- Get the right gear — Use a light shovel with an S-curve and a contoured handle. Bundle up. Use a snow blower and enlist extra hands to help out.
- Set a pace— Take breaks every 15 minutes.
- Keep it light – Move a few inches at a time.
- Lift properly – Place feet shoulder width apart and keep the back straight. Do not twist or bend forward. Push snow out of the way when possible. Never toss snow over your shoulder.
Prevent Slips and Falls
- Clear any snow and ice on your sidewalk and driveway.
- Wear footwear with traction, such as snow or hiking boots.
- Walk slowly and carefully. Use handrails and other stable objects for support.
In extremely cold temperatures, the body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that causes the body’s temperature to fall below 95 degrees. The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable. To avoid becoming too cold:
- Keep the house at a comfortable temperature
- Limit outdoor time in freezing weather
- Wear loose-fitting layered clothes. Hats are essential.
- Stay dry. Take off wet clothing immediately.