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Oakwood Healthcare: How to Avoid Health Hazards During Snow Storms

Oakwood emergency physician, Dr. David Seaman discusses precautions people should be aware of when shoveling or spending time outdoors in the snow.

Photo: Andrew Thurlow
Photo: Andrew Thurlow

The excessive snow and frigid temperatures can be downright dangerous. Before you head out, it’s important to take note of the health risks.

Dearborn Oakwood Emergency physician Ryan Seaman details what to avoid and things to be aware of when heading outdoors into 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,” Seaman said.  He anticipates an increased number of musculoskeletal injuries as the weekend continues and residents begin removing the large amounts of snow received during snowstorm. 

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

During 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, the doctor said. 

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. Doing it in small increments is important.”

The intense weather also 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,” Seaman said.  

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, the doctor said.  

"Wear a hat, gloves, and plenty of layers. Also wear sturdy boots with a good sole.”  

andrew.thurlow@patch.com 

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