It was a wacky and dangerous weekend of weather in Ottawa, with a combination of heavy snowfall, freezing rain, and see-sawing temperatures. Sadly, an Ottawa area man died last week due to a heart attack suffered as a result of the physical stress of snow shovelling. The Ottawa Paramedic Service and Ottawa Heart Institute issued reminders recently to lower the heart risks associated with strenous activities and keep citizens safe. We have consolidated some of these recommendations for safe snow shovelling below:
Warm-Up & Go Slow
You may be in a rush to get it finished, especially if there is a big overnight snowfall before your morning commute. Still, it is important to treat snow shovelling like any strenuous physical activity. You have to warm up your heart and body beforehand. So do some light walking, marching, and stretching to start. Work at a slow pace and take frequent breaks to keep your heart rate down and not wear yourself out. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. These extra precautions make all the difference.
Protect Your Back
While heart concerns are tremendously important, snow shovelling can also cause strain on muscles, especially the back. Use proper and safe movements to prevent injury and protect your back muscles. Bend with your knees, avoid twisting, and walk snow toward the snow pile rather than throwing it. Use smart and efficient motions to stay safe.
Use Good Equipment
Ergonomically-correct shovels not only help you shovel snow faster and more easily, but they help protect your back by encouraging natural motions. Shovels with curved handles are best. The Heart Institute even recommends spraying the blade of the shovel with cooking oil so snow won’t stick, making the entire process less difficult for the shoveller. Sprinkle salt or sand on the ground to create traction, break down ice, and avoid slippery spots.
If you are in ill health, are high-risk for heart disease, please ask a relative, neighbour, or friend in good physical shape to assist you. Most will happily provide the service for free, but you could also offer a teenaged neighbour pay in exchange for his or her snow shovelling duties. You appreciate the labour, they appreciate the compensation, and you could form a nice bond with the next generation.
If you’re in good health and physically fit, please help those in more difficult situations by helping them with snow shovelling. Canada is not just synonymous with snow, but also with compassion and generosity.
If you must shovel and feel discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms or neck, experience extreme shortness of breath, feel faint or dizzy, feel nausea or begin to vomit, or excessively sweat, stop shovelling and call 911.