How to Stay Safe & Avoid Injury this Winter

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Winter is a beautiful time of year, but the glistening snow and arctic temperatures can also bring an element of danger.  It’s important to take precautions to get around and enjoy the weather safely.

Slips and falls

Take it slow on icy sidewalks and wear proper boots or footwear with traction. Use handrails if they’re available. Take small steps and walk slowly to maintain balance.

“Heart attack snow”

Most people have heard the term “heart attack snow.” It’s the heavy, wet snow that requires a high level of physical exertion to shovel. How could shoveling be so dangerous? The combination of intense, unfamiliar exertion and cold air taxes the heart because it boosts blood pressure and heart rate, as well as the demand for oxygen. The cold also can make blood vessels constrict.

Here’s how to reduce the risk of a cardiac event while shoveling:

  • Avoid shoveling in the early morning when heart attacks most often occur.
  • March in place or otherwise warm up before shoveling.
  • Don’t shovel right after eating a heavy meal, drinking caffeinated beverages or smoking.
  • Take breaks every 15 minutes.
  • When possible, push the snow, rather than lift it. When lifting, pick up a small amount at a time.
  • It’s safe to use a shovel that’s 24 inches wide for light snow, but use a narrower, lighter model
    when snow is wet and heavy.
  • If anyone experiences chest pain, dizziness, or other symptoms of a heart attack, chew an aspirin and call 911.


Depending on how cold it is and how hard the wind is blowing, frostbite can set in on exposed skin after just five minutes. Frostbite — a condition in which the body is literally freezing — starts with red or white skin; a stinging, prickling, burning feeling; or numbness. Anyone who is outside with exposed skin and feels these symptoms should stop what they’re doing and get someplace warm immediately. Once inside, change into dry clothing and submerge the affected areas in warm water, not hot water. If it appears someone may have frostbite, head to an emergency room right away.

Take these steps before going out in frigid temperatures:

  • Wear several layers of loose but warm clothing. If something gets wet — especially gloves, socks, or a hat — change into something dry as soon as you can.
  • Drink plenty of water before going outside and throughout the day. Staying hydrated helps ward off frostbite. Drink something warm after coming in from the cold.
  • Put on a hat that covers the ears and a scarf across the face. Wear insulated gloves or mittens and slip on two pairs of socks (the ones closest to the skin should be moisture-wicking fabric)
  •  Wear a heavy coat that repels water, ski pants, and boots that cover the ankles. Keep snow out of sleeves, pant legs, and boots.

630 Naperville Guest

Maryl Pinotti, D.O., is an internal medicine physician with Edward-Elmhurst Medical Group.

About Edward-Elmhurst Health

Edward Hospital and Linden Oaks Behavioral Health are part of NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health, a fully integrated healthcare delivery system committed to providing access to quality, vibrant, community-connected care, serving an area of more than 4.2 million residents across six northeast Illinois counties. Our more than 25,000 team members and more than 6,000 physicians aim to deliver transformative patient experiences and expert care close to home across more than 300 ambulatory locations and eight acute care hospitals – Edward (Naperville), Elmhurst, Evanston, Glenbrook (Glenview), Highland Park, Northwest Community (Arlington Heights) Skokie and Swedish (Chicago) – all recognized as Magnet hospitals for nursing excellence. Located in Naperville, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health provides for the mental health needs of area residents. For more information, visit and

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