It can prove dangerous

Take care when you remove the snow
Man clears snow off the house premises in north Kashmir. [Representational Image]
Man clears snow off the house premises in north Kashmir. [Representational Image] File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Among various challenges that are presented to people by winter, snow shovelling is one that people living in winter zones have to face.

After heavy or even light snowfall, the first and foremost job of people is to clear their footpaths.

The process of snow shovelling is an arduous job than most of the people think. If not done properly it can land you in trouble.

In this article, let’s have a look over the various repercussions of snow shovelling and the precautions that one must take during this job.

1. Effect on blood flow and heart: In response to cold temperatures blood vessels of our body usually constrict or narrow down (Vasoconstriction) in order to minimize heat loss and maintain core body temperature.

However, while performing the strenuous act like snow shovelling there increases the demand of oxygen in the body muscles.

Despite increase in pumping action of heart sufficient level of oxygen does not reach different parts of body involved in strenuous act. This whole process of our cardiovascular system that is, narrowing of blood vessels, increased pumping action of heart, etc. ultimately results in heart collapse and death of a person.

2. Effect of breathing: The inhalation of dry cold air during snow shovelling can result in bronchial irritation and cough. In people suffering from COPD-Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases, the cold air induces bronchial constriction which ultimately leads to cough, wheeze and shortness of breath.

3. Effect on back muscles: Snow shovelling can lead to various kinds of problems in back muscles and they range from lower back pain to slipped or herniated discs.

These problems arise due to poor posture during snow shovelling. Such a poor posture where your back is rounded when going down for the next load of snow minimizes the use of stronger spinal erector muscles and puts more pressure on weaker stabilizer muscles.

4. Effect on extremities:  During cold temperatures and due to vasoconstriction, the decreased blood flow fails to deliver heart to exposed parts like hands, feet, nose, lips and ears.

This eventually leads to formation of ice crystals and hence frostbite. Therefore, the exposure to colder temperatures leads the skin and underlying tissues to freeze.

Though with prompt medical attention people recover fully from frostbite but if it is severe, permanent damage is plausible and it depends on how long and how deeply the tissue was frozen. In severe cases, blood flow to the area may stop and blood vessels, muscles and nerves in the area may get damaged permanently.

Keeping in view the repercussions of snow shovelling in cold weather conditions, there is a dire need to follow a proper procedure for doing this job and take precautionary measures to stay healthy. Some of the important points that we should keep in mind before going for the strenuous job of snow shovelling include-

1. Don’t start snow shovelling abruptly. Rather, you can start the process very slowly.

2. Divide your work of snow shovelling into minor segments and take frequent breaks throughout the work.

3. Before shovelling, go for light warm-up exercise to prepare your body for snow lifting.

4. Cover your hands, nose, head and ears properly to prevent yourself from frostbite.

5. Take light weight shovel and maintain a proper posture while shovelling.

Author is Faculty, Department of Zoology, Central University of Kashmir.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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