Snow shoveling needs to be done, but it can be dangerous if not done correctly and if the person has a heart condition.
"The most wonderful time of the year" sadly also is a time when thousands of people end up in the emergency room for injuries suffered during holiday decorating, winter sports and outdoor activities. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers a few important safety tips so you can enjoy the holiday season and celebrate safely.
"Common holiday season injuries can put a damper on any festive occasion," says Rachel Rohde, MD, spokesperson for the AAOS and orthopaedic surgeon. "We participate in different activities during this season than we do during the rest of the year. Skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are fun sports but are not without some risks. Seemingly simple activities like carrying luggage or even walking outside to get your mail can be a disaster if there is ice on the ground."
The hectic pace of the season can cause people to let their guards down, so before climbing that ladder to decorate the house or bringing that snowblower out of the garage to clear the driveway, the AAOS recommends the following tips for a safe holiday season:
First, avoid falls.
â¢Don't drink and decorate. Save the celebratory drink for after the lights are up and illuminated.
â¢Use a ladder or step stool instead of furniture to stand on when hanging any kind of objects higher than a person can reach.
â¢Select the right ladder for the job. Never exceed the maximum load capacity listed on the ladder. Make sure to inspect all ladders for loose screws, hinges or rungs that might not have been fixed.
â¢Set the ladder on a firm, level surface. Watch out for soft, muddy spots or uneven flooring and never place a ladder on uneven ground.
â¢Do not have children climb ladders to decorate; their balance and strength might not be well enough developed to prevent falls.
â¢Enlist a friend. Ask another adult to help stabilize a ladder to prevent falls and to assist you with your efforts.
Second, lugging the luggage.
â¢Pack light and use luggage with wheels when traveling. Ask for lifting assistance when needed.
â¢Take a proper amount of time time and don't rush when lifting or carrying a suitcase or heavy package. At the mall, minimize heavy loads by using a cart when available and by making frequent trips to the car.
â¢Always use proper lifting techniques. When lifting, bend at the knees and lift with the leg muscles. Don't use the waist or back to support the weight. Avoid twisting or rotating the spine.
Third, winter sports.
â¢Wear appropriate protective gear including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
â¢Warm up the muscles with light exercise for 10 minutes before starting any main activity. Remember to replenish fluids to prevent dehydration.
â¢Pay attention to the rules. Make sure all equipment is in good working order and that is being used properly. First timers who have not participated in a sport before (such as skiing) should take a lesson or two from a qualified instructor. Learn how to fall properly to reduce the risk of injury.
Next is dealing with snow and ice.
â¢Talk with a doctor before clearing the driveway and sidewalk of snow if heart or vascular conditions exist. Whether one is using a snowblower or shovel, this heavy activity in bad weather can be very taxing on a person's body, particularly your heart.
â¢Never stick hands or fingers in a snowblower. If the snow becomes impacted in the machine, stop the engine and wait more than five seconds before clearing it. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. The snowblower blade is on tension and usually spins at least one more time once an obstruction is cleared; keep hands and feet out of the way of that spin.
â¢Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid shoveling heavy, packed snow. Do not throw snow over the shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that places stress on ones back.
â¢Make sure to use salt or an alternative "de-icer" on the driveway, walkways, and porch, if necessary. A small patch of ice can result in a big injury.
â¢Wear proper footwear and pay attention to what's in the way when walking. Ice can cause sudden and serious falls. If a fall does occur try to fall on the side or rear. Roll over naturally, turning your head in the direction of the roll.
â¢Drive cautiously. Allow plenty of time to brake upon approaching stop signs and red lights. Reduce speed when hazardous conditions exist.
For more information on how to stay safe during the holidays, visit www.orthoinfo.org.