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How to shovel snow safely

ProMedica's Dr. Brian Kaminski breaks down tips for staying safe while clearing wet, heavy snow expected to blanket the region Wednesday.

TOLEDO, Ohio — While plow crews are ready to take on the snow on the roads, health professionals say you should have a plan to limit your risks while clearing your driveways and sidewalks after the snow expected to arrive in the region Wednesday.

Each winter, ProMedica hospitals see many cases of injuries directly related to shoveling snow. Usually the injuries are caused when people slip and fall -- sprained joints, broken wrists or hips and even head injuries.

But Dr. Brian Kaminski, vice president of quality and safety with ProMedica, said another overlooked risk factor is heart attacks. 

"People have been inside for many months now, we haven't had a lot of snowfall," Kaminski said. "So, if you aren't somebody who regularly exerts yourself and you're not out there exercising, and shoveling snow is the first time you've done that in a long time, we want you to listen to your body and listen to the signals you might have." 

Kaminski said the risk for heart attacks may be increased during Wednesday's snowfall because it is the first major snow of the year and it is expected to be wet and heavy. 

Also, the human body automatically produces adrenaline in colder conditions, which also increases the risk for people with pre-existing cardiovascular problems, he said.

The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Safety also offered tips for making snow shoveling safer. The group advises shoveling with a partner to share the work and also monitor each other for any signs of serious health problems. Your partner can call 911 if you have a heart attack or other health issue while shoveling. 

Also, the committee recommends warming up by walking and stretching before shoveling, as well as taking frequent breaks to prevent over-exertion.

Kaminski also urged anyone with an underlying health condition to let people know when you're going to go out to shovel. That way if something does happen, you won't be left on your own.

"Every year it seems like we always see somebody who goes outside and they hadn't told anybody and they either fall down and injure themselves or become incapacitated in some other way, and then they're left outside for a prolonged period of time," Kaminski said.

Kaminski urged snow shovelers to have a plan in place, and most importantly to take your time when shoveling this 4 to 7 inches of heavy wet snow over the next few days.

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