CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio's most recent winter blast has local doctors issuing a warning about the hazards of snow shoveling and using powered snow removal equipment over the next number of days and weeks.
Dr. Donald Ford, chairman of family medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, said those who are actively receiving treatment for heart disease or a serious spinal injury should not be shoveling snow, if it can be avoided.
Ford said having a good shoveling technique and the proper shoes or boots with good traction plays a big role in avoiding serious injury.
“It’s lifting just like any other physical exertion, and we always say lift with your legs and not with your back," Ford said. “You want to have your back straight and you want to be able to bend with your legs so that when you lift that snow, the energy, the force is coming from your legs.”
Checking with you doctor is always a good idea, Ford said.
“If you have active heart disease or you’re under active treatment for heart disease, you might want to check with your cardiologist. If you’re being treated for a serious spine condition, or had spinal surgery, again check with your doctor before doing something like this," Ford said.
Dr. Robert Hughes, emergency medical physician with University Hospitals, said wearing the proper hat, gloves and taking warm-up breaks inside are crucial in preventing frost bite.
Hughes said using a snow blower can also be a real safety hazard. Homeowners need to take caution regarding where they are blowing snow as the machine can also pick up potentially hazardous ice, rocks or other debris and throw it toward them or their neighbor.
He said it's also critical snow blower operators stay clear of all moving parts.
"Make sure you use caution when addressing the components of the machine, when you’re adjusting the snow chute for the ejection of the snow," Hughes said. "As that augur spins it can catch on loose clothing like a scarf, it can catch on glove or your hand and can cause some very serious injuries.”
Hughes said older homeowners need to pace themselves and take breaks, especially when removing snow by hand, and that it's not a bad idea to carry a cellphone with them so they can call for help if they've taken a fall and can't get back up on their feet.