Shoveling Snow: The 5 Terrifying Health Risks Everyone Needs To Know

When winter arrives, that usually means that it’s time to switch up the chore schedule in your house.

Suddenly, it’s not just about taking out the garbage; now you have to worry about deicing the gutters and shoveling the front walk.

If you live in a climate that gets a lot of snow, you probably just shrug and accept that, sometimes, that’s just how winter goes.

However, it turns out that dealing with snow especially shoveling is one of the most dangerous chores out there, as we saw when the cops took over for a man who overstressed his bodywhile tackling a heavy snowfall.

People almost always underestimate the toll it can take on their bodies, sometimes with tragic consequences.

So, now that the season of snow is upon us, check out our guidelines about the hidden dangers of shoveling and what you can do to prevent them.

Photo Credit: Dominic Endicott / Tamsen Endicott

What Are The Dangers Of Shoveling Snow?
Risk #1: Heart Attack


Heart attack might be the most infamous complication of shoveling snow approximately 100 people die of heart attack while shoveling snow every winter in the U.S.

That’s because shoveling snowthe perfect storm for cardiovascular episodes.

The forceful exertion of lifting and pushing the snow causes your blood pressure to rise and your heart to pump faster, while the cold air makes your blood vessels constrict.

That combinationmakes it much harder for your heart to do its job, particularly if you have a history of heart health problems.

Risk #2: Hypothermia


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Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that literally means, ‘low temperature,’ and is defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “Amedical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.”

If you bundle up properly, it isn’t an issue, but hypothermia can strike remarkably quickly if you aren’t prepared for the weather.

Your core body temperature only needs to drop a couple of degrees to put your life in serious jeopardy.

Risk #3: Hyperthermia


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Paradoxically, shoveling snow can also causehyperthermia, which is the exact reverse of of hypothermia.

Hyperthermia is when your core body temperature gets too high, and it’s not something most people have to worry about during the cold days of winter.

But if you over-exert yourself and work up too much heat in your heavy clothes, you can raise your body temperature and give yourself a serious fever, which can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure, and even hallucinations and seizure.

Risk #4: Respiratory Distress


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People with chronic breathing issues, like asthma and allergies, know that exercise can sometimes trigger their condition, and snow shoveling definitely qualifies.

When you shovels snow, your heart has to pump faster to get oxygen into your bloodstream, and your lungs have to work faster to keep up.

What starts out as a cardiovascular workout can quickly turn into a respiratory episode in the wrong conditions, which can lead to fainting or dizziness, and, in severe cases, compound heart trouble.

Risk #5: Slipped Disk


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If you have a bad back, shoveling snow is probably a chore you should avoid, because it can be catastrophic for your spine.

Snow is heavy stuff, and the way we lift it extending the shovel and lifting with our arms puts a lot of strain on the back.

You might get away with it for awhile, even years, but the repetitive motion of shoveling can eventually trigger a slipped disc, which is a painful hernia in your spine that can cause chronic pain and limited mobility.

How Can I Shovel Snow Safely?
Solution #1: Exhale When You Lift


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Fortunately, there are a few key ways that you can protect your health if you have to shovel snow.

First and foremost, take a breath when you bend down to pick up the snow, preferably through your nose or a scarf to warm the air, and exhale as you lift it.

This does three things: it establishes a set breathing rhythm to help avoid overexerting your heart and lungs, it keeps you from holding your breath, and it forced the muscles in your diaphragm to contract, which canencourage you to lift from the thighs and knees.

Solution #2: Wait After Eating


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Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you not to go swimming until 45 minutes after lunch? The same rule applies here.

If you polish off a sandwich and then immediately step out into the cold to shovel, you might disrupt your digestion, or give yourself a painful cramp.

Worse, you could risk redirecting much-needed blood flowaway from your heart and muscles, and into your stomach to digest your food, which can contribute to blood pressure imbalances.

Solution #3: Take Breaks


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If you’re shoveling snow, you need to take regular breaks to give your body time to rest.

This is serious exercise, and you should treat it just like getting into shape only give your body as much as it can take, then give yourself a breather.

Take a fifteen-minute break at least every half an hour, and use that time to go inside, warm up, and have a glass of water; this will keep your body churning without getting overwhelmed.

Solution #4: Dont Shovel


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And last but not least, some people simply should not shovel.

If you’re elderly, pregnant, have a history of heart trouble, or any other conditions that might make shoveling dangerous, do not pick up the shovel it’s not worth it!

If it’s a choice between a snowy walkway and a heart attack, stay inside and hire a healthy young person to shovel that walk instead!

Do you shovel snow yourself or get help? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget toSHARE with everyone living in a snowy climate!

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