News & Politics

Your Snow Shovel Is Trying to Kill You

Photograph via iStock.

When flakes hit the ground, your snow shovel looks harmless, perhaps even inviting! What’s better than hard work that shows immediate results, your breath making soft clouds in the morning air as you clear your sidewalk, rectangle by life-affirming rectangle?

Well, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but that shovel is an instrument of death with a D-shaped handle at one end and a scoop at the other.

Between 1990 and 2006, there were 1,647 fatalities associated with shoveling snow, and an average of 11,500 snow-shoveling related injuries and emergencies per year. If you’re prone to heart disease or have risk factors for a heart attack, you definitely shouldn’t pick up the Arctic Blast: The Cleveland Clinic warns that cold weather can constrict your arteries and make your blood pressure rise.

Oh, and were you going to have a beer first and then clear the snow? Make sure it’s a good one, because it may be your last! Alcohol, the American Heart Association warns, “can increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause you to underestimate the extra strain your body is under in the cold.”

And let’s not forget the back injuries that could ruin what’s left of your life. Push snow when you can, lift with your legs, don’t pick up too much, and try to move the snow only once.

If you must look death in the face and mumble “Not today,” dress in breathable clothes, with gloves and warm footwear to prevent your extremities from getting cold and increasing your cardiovascular risks. Stretch first. Drink water. Take breaks. It’s not a bad idea to call your doctor, like, right now to check if you’re cleared for liftoff.

Or you could hire a neighborhood kid. Tip well: She’s probably saving your life.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.