Heavy wet snow, like the kind that is on the ground now in the Baltimore region, can be a major threat to a person’s heart, according to local and national health officials.
The American Heart Association says most people will not have any ill effects from exertion, but shoveling and even just walking can increase risk in others.
To make the situation safer, the association reminds people they should take frequent breaks, don’t eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling and use a small shover so the loads are lighter. The association also says don’t drink alcohol before or immediately after shoveling because it could make a person underestimate the extra strain.
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Dress in warm layers and wear a hat to prevent hypothermia, officials said.
For people who don’t exercise regularly, shoveling at all may be a bad idea. If a person has signs of a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes to call 911. Those signs are pain or discomfort in the chest and other areas in the upper body; pain in one or both arms, the back, neck or stomach; shortness of breath, cold sweat; and nausea or lightheadedness.
Dr. Matt Levy, an expert on extreme weather at Johns Hopkins Hospital, also reminds people not to stick their hands into a jammed snow blower without powering off the engine and disconnecting the spark plug connection.
He says to never use a generator indoors, even in the garage or basement. Don’t use candles for light or stoves for heat. Also, be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, including headache, flu-like symptoms and confusion. Check on elderly neighbors and pets.
As for driving, Levy said four-wheel drives also can’t stop on ice, so stay off the roads if possible. For those who must go out, have a full tank of gas, charged phone and survival bag with flashlight, food, blanket and essential medications. Sand or kitty litter works for traction.