Health Matters | Stay Safe During and After the Winter Storm

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Stay Safe During and After the Winter Storm

Snow is quickly accumulating in Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia this morning, creating potentially dangerous conditions. It is important to keep some basic winter safety tips in mind during and after the storm:

Shoveling Snow
A necessary evil after a snow storm, shoveling snow can pose a health risk for many people. Snow shoveling is a strenuous activity. It can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Individuals with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure or strokes should not shovel snow.

If you must shovel snow, shovel as early as possible. Snow is heavier after it has been on the ground for a few days - often melting and re-freezing, creating a solid chunk of snow rather than powdery, just-fallen snow. Also, make sure that you are properly hydrated and prepare your body for shoveling by warming up. Jog in place or do ten jumping jacks before you begin to shovel, as this will get your blood flowing before you begin. Also, be sure to take your time and move slowly when shoveling snow. Shoveling too fast can increase your blood pressure and put you at greater risk for spraining or pulling a muscle.

Walking on Ice
Icy patches can be difficult to see. The slips and falls caused by ice can be serious. If you come across an area that you believe may be icy, tap the edge of the area with your foot to be sure. Wear shoes with gripping soles to provide traction. Also, keep your hands out of your pockets when walking in order to keep your balance on a slippery surface. Don’t carry heavy items like shopping bags with you when walking on slippery surfaces. This can change your center of balance, making you more likely to slip and fall.

When getting out of your vehicle, check to make sure there are no icy spots near your vehicle. If you are parked on a slick spot, move the vehicle to a different area if you can. Also, when entering and exiting your car while on ice, use the vehicle for balance and support.

Frostbite
Frostbite occurs when skin and its underlying tissue are exposed to very cold temperatures and freezing conditions. Skin that appears waxy or hard and has a gray tone may have frostbite. The damaged skin may also itch or burn and may turn red in color as the affected area thaws.

The first step to treating frostbite is to get out of the cold. Get inside to a warm place as soon as possible. Once inside, remove any wet clothing. If you cannot get out of the cold, place your hands under your arms to warm them. Also, cover areas that can be most affected by frostbite (nose and ears) with a scarf and try not to walk if your feet may have frostbite, as this will make the condition worse.

Frostbite is generally treated by gradually warming the skin. Remember to seek the treatment of a medical professional as soon as possible if you think you may have frostbite.



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