Doctor discusses how to avoid health hazards during the snow storm

The excessive snow and frigid temperatures can be downright dangerous. Before you head out there into the hazardous conditions, it’s important to take note of the health risks. Seemingly routine tasks such as shoveling snow require extra precautions in this weather. Oakwood Emergency physician Ryan Seaman, DO, of Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn details what to avoid and things to be aware of when heading outdoors into snow and freezing temperatures this week.

Snow shoveling injuries are more common than you might think.

“There’s a pretty significant risk of injury with shoveling snow that people don’t really think about,” says Dr. Seaman.  He anticipates there may be an increased number of musculoskeletal injuries as the week continues and residents begin removing the large amounts of snow received during the snowstorm.

“Take it easy and take breaks often. Activities performed in this weather can lead to an increase in accidents and heart attacks,” said Dr. Seaman. “Everyone should warm up before they go out there, so they aren’t shoveling with sudden exertion. If they’re tired or experience any chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, jaw pain or other symptoms they should stop and take a break and contact a doctor right away.”

During snow storms, people should be careful using proper lifting techniques and snow removal equipment to avoid straining back or shoulder muscles. The lower back is the most commonly injured body part during snow removal. Dr. Seaman says to watch out for localized pain in the lower back area that’s worse with movement or bending over.

“Back injuries and back strains from shoveling are common,” he said. “Doing it in small increments is important.” Such a chill along with the wind has the capacity to whip heat away from your skin causing frostbite fairly quickly. “Any part of the skin that remains exposed to the air can get frostbitten within a half hour in weather like this,” said Dr. Seaman.

Prevention is the solution.  Protect your skin by covering as much as you can, leaving as little exposed as possible. That includes the tip of your nose, eyelids, and lips

“Cover all the tips – fingers, toes, nose and other extremities. Wear a hat, gloves, and plenty of layers. Also wear sturdy boots with a good sole.” 

Dr. Seaman also recommends taking extra precautions while driving and taking part in any outdoor activities. “Drive slowly and carefully and really take your time if you have to drive anywhere in these conditions. Be aware of your surroundings whether you’re driving or doing anything active outdoors.” The doctor also recommends taking some extra time to check in on elderly neighbors and loved ones.

For a complete list of Oakwood emergency and urgent care locations, visit www.oakwood.org/locations. 

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