CLEVELAND, Ohio — With the snow and cold weather comes dangers to your health.
Shoveling the snow is a significant chore, putting pressure on the heart and forcing the body to regulate the body’s temperature while dealing with the physical exertion. It’s a process that can exacerbate existing or chronic health issues and in worst-case scenarios, cause heart problems or cardiac arrest.
Cold-related dangers arrived this week, with the first blast of winter weather. Temperatures are now dropping below freezing, with National Weather Service forecast showing wind chills in the teens for Wednesday night. Snowfall is predicted again on Friday night.
Find Thursday’s forecast here.
Charles Emerman, MetroHealth’s chairman of emergency medicine, said the hospital had seen no serious weather-related cases, only a handful of people with minor frostbite.
But when snow falls again, Northeast Ohioans should keep in mind potential health conditions when they’re lacing up their winter boots.
One of the most common problems that brings people into the hospital is frostbite. The first sign is a tingling in your nose, hands, face, feet or other exposed body parts. You can treat frostbite by getting out of the cold.
The real warning signs are when blisters appear. Don’t pop them; get to a hospital where specialists will be able to treat you. There are new treatments for frostbite and thermal injuries, Emerman said.
Prevent frostbite by covering skin as much as you can. You also need to head inside and dry off if skin gets wet, because that can accelerate frostbite.
Though cold air drives down body temperature and makes breathing harder, most activities are fine if you’re prepared.
But if you’re at risk for heart attack, lead a sedentary lifestyle or have a chronic health condition, view shoveling snow as a significant physical stress, not just a chore to check off your list.
“Most people are able to get outside and walk or do usual things. What gets most difficult for people is the snow shoveling,” Emerman said. “Shoveling is a significant exertion. If you can’t go out and walk a mile for 20 minutes, you can’t go out and shovel snow for 20 minutes.”
Besides the stress it can put on the heart and lungs, lifting up snow, twisting and throwing it can put strain on the back. Emerman said to push the snow, not lift it, when shoveling. If you start feeling dizzy or having difficulty breathing, stop.
Questioning whether or not your heart can handle shoveling snow? Check in with your doctor.
Read more about shoveling snow and heart health on the MetroHealth website.
“Everyone should get their flu shot,” Emerman said.
Medical visits due to influenza-like illness are below the baseline so far this year, USA Today reported. Experts attribute this success to the number of strains addressed by this year’s flu shot.
Flu vaccines typically fall between 40 and 60 percent effectiveness in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu shots can be particularly helpful for people with chronic health conditions, preventing risk of hospitalization.
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