As the beauty of winter emerges and we rise to see Mother Nature’s first snowfall, it is important to keep in mind the dangers that come with the storm. We notice all the excitement of our first winter storm as children quickly dress in snowsuits and head outside. We sit back and relax with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the snowflakes hit the ground as they pile up into a beautiful sheet of white across the landscape we view through our windows. But, with all the beauty that comes with falling snow, emergency responders are preparing for the chaos that soon erupts. Car accidents, heart attacks from over exertion, snow blower injuries, and other emergency calls flood the lines of dispatchers. The mood changes from excitement to impatience as many people look forward to warmer weather and the end of a snowy winter.

Different Types of Emergency Calls

We immediately think of car accidents when talking about snow fall and emergency responders, but there are many other injuries that occur during the snowy winter months that require emergency medical care.

Shoveling: Science proves that shoveling snow can have a potentially fatal effect on a person’s body. The American Heart Association runs a campaign yearly urging people over 55 and anyone with a heart condition, to stay away from the task of shoveling snow. Because cold weather causes our blood vessels to constrict, our blood pressure usually increasing while being outdoors during the winter months. People with preexisting heart problems should talk to their doctor before shoveling snow. While heart attack is the leading cause of death in America, heart attack rates spike in the winter. Adding stimulants like coffee and nicotine to your system can make the risk even higher. If you have no other option than to shovel the snow, be sure to follow safe practices when doing so. Use a small shovel, take frequent breaks, cover your mouth to avoid angina, and be conscious of signs of a heart attack. If you believe you are having a heart attack call 911 immediately.

Snow Blower Accidents: The snow blower itself can be a threat to your safety, especially when it comes to your hands. It is important that you know how to properly use a snow blower to decrease the risk of serious injury during its operation. Thousands of people visit the emergency room with injuries to their hands and amputated fingers during snow storms. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that around 6,000 people seek emergency treatment from snow blower accidents every winter season. Most injuries occur when the snow is wet and heavy, causing machines to become clogged. If you suffer from a hand injury while operating a snow blower this winter, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Frost Bite: Frost bite and frost nip, especially in children and older adults, is another common injury that medical responders see during the cold winter months. With the excitement of being able to participate in cold-weather activities such as sledding, snowmobiling, skiing, and snow ball fights, cold related injuries become common. High winds and wet clothing add extra risk during snow storms. Although your child may be bundled to the max, frostnip affects the face, ears, toes, and fingers. While frostnip responds well to simple rewarming, left untreated it can lead to frostbite. Frostbite requires immediate medical attention and can even require emergency transportation and, in severe cases, surgery. If you are spending a great deal of time in the cold elements, be sure to listen to your body for signs of frostbite. These can include pain, burning, tingling, numbness, blisters, and pale skin. Be sure to have your children take frequent breaks when playing in the cold to warm up and even change their clothing so the dampness is not leaking through to their skin.

This winter, follow safety procedures to ensure that your image of the beauty of the first snowfall remains positive. While emergency responders don’t want to see snow-related injuries happen, they are prepared to respond should you need to seek treatment.