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How NOT to Shovel Snow and Other Important Winter Tips


Old man winter is bearing down on the United States, and for a good portion of us that means winter weather is near (or already here). In much of the country, this also means frigid temperatures, ice storms, and snow could contribute to some significant injuries.

winter tips shovelling

Protect your skin from winter temperatures by wearing warm gloves, a hat and a scarf when you're outdoors.

In fact, more than 50,000 Americans wind up with winter-related back injuries every year, and countless others suffer back pain or pulled muscles from shoveling or fractures from slipping and falling on ice.

Heart attacks are also a concern for those shoveling snow, particularly if you're not in top physical shape. People who rarely exercise are actually up to 30 times more likely to have a heart attack while snow shoveling, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As is true any time of year, the difference between staying safe and getting injured is often just a matter of taking the appropriate precautions. Here we've compiled some of the top tips to keep you accident-free this season.

1. Be Smart About Shoveling. This means ...

  • Using a good ergonomically correct shovel

  • Keeping your back straight and pushing the snow, rather than lifting it

  • Pacing yourself to avoid overexertion (a five-minute break every 15 minutes is a good rule of thumb)

  • Shoveling early and often because newly fallen snow is lighter

  • Coating your shovel with non-stick cook spray to keep the snow from getting heavily packed

If you're using a snowblower, use a wooden handle from a broom or a stick to clear out a jam -- do not reach your hand into the shoot.

2. Use Care When Walking on Ice. If you can avoid an icy patch, do it, but for times when you have no choice, take short, shuffling steps to avoid falling. Also, walk slowly and flat-footed, and bend your knees slightly. Be sure to stay loose and flexible (not tense) to avoid getting hurt if you do fall.

3. Prepare Your Car for Winter. We've detailed everything you need to know to winterize your car in this past article. Please also remember to always put an emergency kit in your trunk. This can be as simple as stocking a backpack with the following essential items recommended by

winter tips shovelling

Coating your shovel with non-stick cooking spray will keep the snow from getting packed and heavy.

  • A flashlight, flares and a first-aid kit

  • Jumper cables, a tool kit and tire chains

  • A blanket and some warm winter clothes

  • A bag of sand or salt, to use for traction if a tire gets stuck

  • A snowbrush, ice scraper and snow shovel

  • A container of wiper fluid and paper towels

  • Some food and water

4. Prepare Your Home for Winter. recommends completing this 10-step checklist to get your home winter-ready. If you don't, you risk higher heating bills and possibly some expensive repairs come spring.

5. Protect Your Skin from Dry Winter Air. Lower temperatures and decreased humidity can leave your skin dry, itchy, red, and flaky. To protect your skin, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and always wear gloves, a scarf and hat when you go outside. You should also apply a moisturizer immediately after bathing, while your skin is still moist, to lock in moisture. The staff at Sixwise especially loves Surgeon's Secret Skin Moisturizing Sticks for soothing and preventing winter itch and dry, cracked skin.

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6. Know How to Care for Frostbite. Frostbitten skin will be pale, cold and have no feeling, and later will change to red and painful before the final stages of white, numb skin when the tissue actually begins to freeze. If you suspect you have frostbite, you should move to a warmer place, remove any jewelry or wet clothing, wrap the area in sterile dressings (separate fingers and toes) and get to an emergency room immediately.

If medical attention is not immediately available, you should follow these steps:

  • Immerse the frostbitten area in warm (NOT hot) water, or apply warm clothes, for 20-30 minutes. This may cause pain, swelling and color changes, and the process is complete when the skin is soft and has regained feeling.

  • Do NOT rub or massage the frostbitten areas.

  • Apply sterile dressings to the areas, separating fingers and toes.

  • Keep the areas as still as possible, and keep them warm to prevent re-freezing. If you cannot keep the areas from re-freezing, it may be better to delay the initial warming process until a safe location can be reached, as re-freezing can case even more severe tissue damage than the initial frostbite.

  • Give the person warm drinks to replace any lost fluids.

Recommended Reading

Winter Dangers to Your Pet: Don't Let Fido and Fifi Freeze!

How to Winterize Your Home: The 10 Key Steps for Your Health and Wellbeing

Sources December 21, 2007 January 18, 2003

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