Winter chores made easier - and safer
By Karen Cicero
Cold weather sure does make household tasks pile up. Before you tackle your to-do list, chill out with these tips from injury-prevention experts.
1. Keep Floors Clean and Clear
Footwear covered with mud, rock salt, sand and snow not only makes a huge mess, but also spreads the germs carried in the dirt.
The easier, safer way: The best strategy to prevent other winter goop from being tracked all over the house: Keep baskets by the door for shoes and boots. Designate a basket for all the messy footwear and another for the clean footwear. Then you and the kids simply have to change shoes when walking through the door. If you have young children who keep forgetting to swap out their snow boots, institute a reward system: For every day of no slip-ups, they will earn a sticker, extra story time, or a few more minutes of playtime. It'll turn 'em into snow angels in no time!
2. Build a Worry-free Fire
With oil and gas prices going through the roof, you might be relying on your fireplace a lot more this year. "It's a fine alternative -- provided you use it wisely," says John Ulczycki, group vice president of the National Safety Council.
The easier, safer way: First of all, if you haven't had your fireplace cleaned in the last year, make an appointment. "The buildup of materials in there can trigger chimney fires," cautions Ulczycki. Once you have that taken care of, clear the area around the hearth of decorations, debris or flammable materials. "Kids may want to cuddle close to the fire with their pillows and blankets, but that can be dangerous," he says. Another bad move: Using flammable liquids to start a fire and tossing in trash, paper or other debris to get flames roaring along. Instead, choose dense woods, such as oak, that have been split and stored in a dry place for at least six months. Place the logs at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate and start the fire with kindling.
3. Shovel Snow Smart
Don't be among the 17,000 Americans who will head to the ER this year because they got hurt clearing their driveways or sidewalks. "We see all kinds of strains and sprains, plus some fractures caused by improper snow-shoveling techniques," says Roxanne Wallace, an orthopedic surgeon at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, N.H. What's more, this much-dreaded winter task also raises your risk of having a heart attack.
The easier, safer way: To get the job done without a backache (or worse!) the next day, Wallace suggests you push the snow as much as possible rather than lift it. "When you have no other option, bend at your knees, lift the snow with your back straight and throw it straight in front of you," she says. "Tossing it off to the side or over your head will put extra strain on your spine and heart." Also work in 20-minute shifts with a break of that length in between; don't try to get it done in one fell swoop. And keep a water bottle out there with you. Think about it: Snow removal can be just as strenuous as anything you do at the gym, and it doesn't seem silly to swig water there, right?
Karen Cicero is Completely You's Need to Know blogger. A health journalist and magazine editor with more than 15 years of experience, she has contributed to such publications as Prevention, SELF and Health, and she has edited the dental column for Heart & Soul magazine.
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