Skip to contents

Shoveling Snow Can Be Dangerous. Here’s How To Stay Safe During Chicago Winters

Shoveling snow can put a strain on your heart.

An early morning shoveler in front of Big Star, paving a safe way for commuters.
Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

DOWNTOWN — Chicago’s heavy winter snowstorms pose a unique threat to citydwellers.

Chicagoans have to shovel their sidewalks — and they face hefty fines if they fail to do so — but shoveling snow is notoriously rough on the heart and can lead to fatal heart attacks. In November, the National Weather warned that the batch of snow hitting Chicago was “exceptionally wet” and “very heavy,” meaning moving it can put even more strain on shovelers than usual. While each storm produces different types of snow, folks should be careful. 

“If shoveling, use extreme caution, be aware of strains it puts on your heart!” the National Weather Service said in a November tweet after a snowstorm.

The danger comes from a variety of factors: Shoveling is very demanding on the heart, the cold weather can cause blood vessels to constrict and increase blood clotting, shoveling is usually done without warming up and the heavy arm work it requires can increase blood pressure, among other factors, according to CBS News.

If you do have to shovel, the Weather Service advised people to only shovel small amounts of snow at a time, to take frequent breaks and to stay hydrated.

RELATED: Shovel Your Sidewalk This Winter Or Face Fines Up to $500

The American Heart Association also suggests people avoid drinking alcohol before and immediately after shoveling snow, dress in layers to prevent hypothermia, and pay attention to their bodies and look for signs of heart attack, like shortness of breath and chest discomfort.

And no, using a snow blower doesn’t necessarily protect you from the dangers of heavy snow: You’re still moving a heavy object in cold, strenuous weather.

Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.