Shoveling the driveway or sidewalk is the bane of every cold-weather dweller's existence in the winter. If you're preparing your home for a property inspection or a visit from a potential buyer, shoveling is required. Unfortunately, this innocuous activity is actually more dangerous than many would believe. According to a study by the U.S. Nationwide Children's Hospital, from 1990 to 2006, nearly 200,000 Americans were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained while shoveling snow. In that same time period, about 1,600 people died while removing snow from their property.
This trend seems absurd without a close look at the data. Even young healthy males studied by U.S. Nationwide Children's Hospital researchers were found to exert themselves more while shoveling snow than when running on a treadmill. The reason for all the injuries and deaths has to do with a variety of factors, according to the BBC, including how cold air constricts blood vessels and some people simply overwork themselves.
Snow shoveling can seem like a literal back-breaking activity, but there are many ways to make things easier on yourself. DoItYourself.com listed a number of helpful tips for staying safe while shoveling the powdery white stuff. The first and most straightforward reminder: Take it easy. People often overexert themselves while trying to remove snow too quickly. Snow can fall pretty fast, but that doesn't mean you have to run a time trial to get it all cleared. You need to be especially cautious if you've been diagnosed with a heart condition. The combination of blood-constricting cold and excessive physical effort means your heart has to work overtime. No amount of snow is worth a trip to the hospital, so know your limits (or just get the neighborhood kid to do it).
Hot hacks for cold tasks
If your shovel is showing its age, it may be time to pick up some new gear. While you're at it, DoItYourself.com suggested some clever snow removal hacks. Ever consider coating your shovel in cooking oil? This works best for the heavy and wet snow that some storms bring, and should prevent snow and ice from sticking to your shovel and adding weight. One of the more unusual pieces of advice involves wearing socks and shoes - that is, wearing socks over your shoes. It's a serious tip that gets serious results, according to the New Zealand Medical Journal. A pair of sturdy socks should increase traction on wet and slippery surfaces.
You can also skip the shoveling charade altogether with a couple of different techniques. Some winter-bound homeowners mix their own deicing solution that can be poured directly on ice to melt it away. Just mix one teaspoon of dish liquid with a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol into a half gallon of warm water. Pouring this directly on ice or hardpacked snow can melt the tough stuff quickly. Alternatively, with a little preparation, you can just not shovel snow at all. Cover your sidewalks or driveway with large tarps before snow sets in. Once it's all done, lift the tarp by its corners and dump into the yard. This might get difficult with large amounts of snow, but would work well for small storms or significant amounts of ice.
What these tips all come down to is the fact that shoveling snow is something to be taken more seriously by most. The relatively high number of injuries from what many see as a harmless but monotonous activity show that a new attitude surrounding snow removal would benefit everyone.