ER workers caution about back and heart concerns in snowy weather

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Don't put away that shovel, as the snow continues to fall people will need to use it.

But shoveling can increase a person’s risk of some serious health problems that could put them in the emergency room. Exertion in cold weather elevates people’s risk for heart problems, complications for asthma and breathing, as well as back problems from slips, falls, and shoveling.

It doesn't have to be heavy, wet snow to strain the body. Brian Schultz has worked in the emergency room at Christ Hospital for years.

“We get a lot of people that come in with back pain, low back, mid back, pain that goes into their legs and it's because of this type of weather,” said Schultz.

To avoid this pain as the snow falls he advised, “Proper body mechanics, as simple as bending at the knees, when you are picking something up. It's the same as shoveling.”

There's another danger that can lead to pretty bad back pain-- when it's slick under people’s feet and they’re walking on surface snow, when people catch themselves if they fall they may sort of jerk back. That can give twinges of back pain so it's not uncommon to see people icing it or needing medical attention from that.

Schultz said his final reminder in cold weather was for people to take their time and protect their heart. “People go out and try to think, ‘I gotta get that walkway shoveled,’ and they have heart problems. They are going to exert too much energy. It's something that they really need to think about, especially with a pre-existing condition something like cardiac, you got take that into account.”

The heart warning signs are important to note. Most people know about trouble breathing or difficulty with chest pain but arm pain and jaw pain are also early warning signs that people are at risk.

Call 911 or ask another to drive to medical care. Half of all people, according to one survey, try and drive themselves. That only raises the risk the person won't make it on time and may hurt others along the way.

The other injury reported during slick conditions: concussions. They're caused by car accidents and falls. Emergency medicine experts said be aware of the risks if people head out to shovel their driveway or walkway.

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