WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With winter’s first local snowstorm on its way, emergency departments in Westchester are gearing up for what could be higher-than-normal volumes of patients that often accompany winter storms.
“Winter is a busy time for hospital emergency departments with car accidents, hypothermia, slip and falls, cardiac incidents and other accidents that accompany the snow,” said Dr. Ron Nutovits, chairman of emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, home to the region’s only state-of-the-art, 24-hour "no wait" emergency department, which sees more than 39,000 visits per year.
Nutovits said that people need to use caution to prevent such accidents. Snow shoveling is a major culprit when it comes to triggering heart attacks. Heavy snow makes for tougher-than-usual shoveling, and people unused to the exertion of heavy lifting can run into trouble. This is coupled with the fact that the cold can boost blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 11,000 adults and children end up in the hospital every year due to snow-shoveling accidents.
Those using snow blowers to clear snow should also use caution, as hand injuries are common when people try to clear clogs in the exit chute without turning off the machine.
Children and older adults are more prone to hypothermia. Dress appropriately.
Wearing proper shoes and making sure that walkways and steps are cleared and salted are the best way to avoid injuries from slips and falls.
Nutovits suggests the following winter tips:
- Warm up your muscles before starting.
- Shovel many light loads instead of fewer heavy ones.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Head indoors immediately if your chest starts hurting, you feel lightheaded or short of breath, your heart starts racing or some other physical change makes you nervous.
For using snow blowers:
- Turn off the machine.
- Wait for a minute to give the blades time to stop rotating.
- Keep hands clear of the exit chute and blades.
- Never use your hands to clear the snow. Use a stick to clear the clogged chute.
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