Cook County doctor provides safety tips for residents still digging after snow storm

The snowstorm may be over, but cleanup continues in the Chicago area.

Patrick Michel was shoveling at Lakeview on Thursday afternoon, where he said it was his second attempt on snow.

“That’s when you start to realize you’re really out of shape. Take your time. Don’t try to do everything at once,” Michel said.

Down the street, Matt Kramer was cleaning his car for the first time in weeks.

“I’ve been out of town for a few weeks, so I’m not burying my car,” Kramer said as he used a shovel and ice scraper to dig out his vehicle.

Several cars remain frozen in their parking spots and driving can be risky on snowy side streets.

It was the kind of snow where doctors say they see people injure themselves while shoveling, from cold exposure to muscle strain, right down to fat; heart attacks.

“It’s a combination of the cold raising your blood pressure raising your heart rate, and this lifting activity is really putting incredible stress on the heart,” said Dr. Mark Loafman, Cook County Health, chair of family medicine.


Dr. Loafman calls it the perfect storm.

He advises you to take breaks, to use a smaller shovel, therefore to take lighter spoons.

Don’t eat a large meal before or after shoveling. Do not drink and shovel.

And of course, watch for warning signs.

“Chest pain or discomfort, nausea, dizziness, tingling in the arms, these types of symptoms are warning signs, get help right away,” Dr. Loafman said.

Loafman says shoveling is the heart stress test some people will fail.

“Probably exercising instead of just shoveling is a good idea. It can definitely be a workout if you don’t train a lot,” Matt Kramer said as he prepared to free his car snow.

Maybe we shouldn’t wait for the next big snowfall to get our heart rate up with a bit of exercise.

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