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Play it safe by taking precautions when shoveling snow

With Michigan’s snow shoveling season upon us, the Michigan Primary Care Consortium is offering guidelines to avoid personal injury or more serious health care consequences that can be connected to clearing away that white stuff.

Of special concerns are individuals facing chronic back challenges, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as being a tobacco user.

Some of the consortium’s advice includes —

— Snow shoveling is no different than any other physical activity. Consult a physician to determine if snow shoveling is safe for you.

— If there is a personal or physician concern, hire an individual to help with shoveling.

— Start slowly, work at a steady pace and take frequent breaks. Shoveling for extended periods of time will compromise your safety and health.

— If experiencing any pain or unusual symptoms, immediately stop and seek appropriate assistance.

— Select the right shovel. A curved handle is recommended. A plastic blade tends to be lighter than a metal blade. And a smaller blade that picks up less snow can be less stressful on the back and other body areas.

— The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommend lifting snow in a squat position with legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift at the legs. Do not bend at the waist. When tossing the snow, this position should be in the throwing direction. Never throw snow over the shoulder. Be aware a snow-packed shovel blade can weigh as much as 25 pounds.

— Stay hydrated when working outdoors. Best to avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages and energy drinks.

— Wear layered clothing that can be removed while warming up. Be certain to wear warm, insulated gloves or mittens, socks and boots.

— Warm up muscles before journeying out to remove snow. Cold and tight muscles are more likely to sprain or strain. Consider a minor pre-stretching process.

— Let a family member, neighbor or friend know when you plan to be outdoors shoveling snow.

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