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In Advance of Winter Storm, Rhode Islanders Reminded to Take Health Precautions

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is reminding all Rhode Islanders about tips related to shoveling, heating, and food safety to keep themselves healthy and safe during and after winter storms.

Shoveling

Snow shoveling can cause sudden increases in blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk of heart attacks. Shoveling can also cause shoulder and back injuries.

Before shoveling:

- Talk to your doctor if you have a history of heart trouble to make sure it is safe for you to shovel snow.

- Drink plenty of water. You can get dehydrated in cold weather, too.

- Dress warmly, and dress in several layers.

- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

- Warm up the muscles in your arms and legs. Walk around for a few minutes and stretch your arms and legs.

While shoveling:

- Take it slow, pace yourself, and take breaks.

- Don't pick up too much snow at once. Use a smaller shovel, or only fill the shovel part way if you use a large shovel.

- Protect your back. Bend from the knees and lift with your legs bent. Stand with your feet about hip width apart for good balance and keep the shovel close to your body.

- Try not to twist. If you need to move snow to one side, move your feet to face the direction you are throwing the snow.

- Listen to your body. Stop if you feel tired or feel tightness in your chest.

- Call 911 if you or someone you are with is experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain or pressure; sweating; shortness of breath; nausea or vomiting; pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms; lightheadedness or sudden weakness; a fast or irregular heartbeat).

Heating

Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless. It can cause loss of consciousness or death. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

- Never use a gas range or oven to heat your house. Do not use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside your house.

- If you need to use a generator, make sure it is properly installed and vented.

- If you lose power and it is too cold inside your house, go to a friend or family's home or go to a warming center. Call 211 for a list of warming centers.

Babies should always sleep alone in their own sleep environment, even if the heat is lost in a home. Bedsharing is extremely dangerous. A parent can roll over and prevent the baby from breathing, or the baby can get trapped between the wall and the bed.

Babies typically need one more layer of clothing than adults. If your baby seems cold, the baby should be swaddled in a blanket, or dressed in an additional outfit.

Food safety during and after any power outages

During power outages, the food items that are of greatest concern are moist, perishable foods. Bacteria can easily grow on this food.

If you believe that you could lose power, turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. If you lose power, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

Power outages of more than four hours may be hazardous to food. If the food temperature is greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, or you do not know the food temperature, it is best to throw it out. In other words, when in doubt, throw it out.

For more winter health tips, see https://health.ri.gov/seasonal/winter.

For help preparing for winter storms and extreme cold, see https://health.ri.gov/publications/guidelines/preparing-for-winter.pdf.

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