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March 4, 2003
Toronto paramedics warn of the dangers to health from snow and ice
Emergency Medical Services - Toronto EMS paramedics are urging residents to
exercise caution and start planning ahead for the potential of a significant
snow fall over the next 24 hours.

Environment Canada is predicting heavy snow and possibly freezing rain. "This
increases the risk of people slipping and falling on the ice in addition to the
dangers from snow shovelling," said Tom Murray, co-ordinator of the Toronto EMS
Community Medicine Program. "We need to get the message out early to the public
in the hope of preventing further deaths related to snow shovelling."

Shovelling large amounts of heavy, wet snow places a large strain on people
over 40 years of age or those with underlying medical conditions such as high
blood pressure, respiratory and/or heart disease.

Many people are not aware that one shovel full of snow could weigh 35 kilograms
and lifting this amount more than ten minutes is the equivalent of lifting
4,400 kilograms. "Shovelling snow is similar to doing a moderate to severe
cardiac stress test on a treadmill," said Murray.

"People have to be aware of the stress that shovelling snow places on the
heart. As you work harder so do your heart and lungs. This can lead to high
blood pressure, shortness of breath and in some instances may lead to sudden
heart arryhthmias and sudden death, said Murray.

Toronto paramedics recommend ways to reduce the risks associated with
shovelling snow:
· Do a light warm-up or stretch beforehand
· Get help from neighbours or friends/family, if possible
· Shovel small loads; fill only half the shovel
· Push shovel instead of lifting
· Start shovelling before it piles up; do it as many times as required instead
of all at once
· Pace yourself and rest as needed

If you experience any of the following feelings or sensations, do not ignore
· Pressure or crushing pain in your chest, sweating, nausea or vomiting
· Pain that starts in your chest and extends to the jaw, left arm or left
· Tightness in your chest and/or a feeling of "heartburn" which can mimic a
heart attack
· Any abnormal or prolonged shortness of breath

"Do not delay in calling 9-1-1 if you experience any of these symptoms," said
Murray. "Stop what you are doing immediately and rest. Your life may depend on

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