Dr. Joan Pellegrini

    Dangers of Shoveling Snow Off Your Roof

    2/3/2015 12:00:00 AM

    Dangers of Shoveling Snow Off Your Roof 
    Healthy Living - February 3, 2015
    Joan Pellegrini, MD 


    Just like last year, this year is turning out to be another snowy one. You may look out at your roof and see all the snow on it and think your roof could not possibly survive all that weight on it. Unfortunately, we are also seeing another repeat from last year: people becoming seriously injured because they tried to get up on their roof and clear the snow. 

    I am a surgeon and not a roofer or home builder. However, it should be said that most roofs in this area are built to withstand fairly large snow loads. the risk of a roof collapsing has to do with how much weight of snow has accumulated (ice and wet snow are heavier), how long the roof will need to support that extra weight (our roofs are meant to handle a large amount of weight for some time but not all year long), and what condition the roof and supports are in. After a large snow fall, some of the snow will slide off the roof, some will melt, and some will sublimate (when ice turns into vapor). The wind is a welcome friend in that it will blow much of the snow off the roof. Also, some roofs have a steeper pitch and will do better during the snowier times. Some roofs are in better condition or have been built more sturdily. If your house is old or you are concerned about the condition of your roof, it may be beneficial to have it looked at by a professional who can help guide you on this issue. 

    There are professionals who can safely clear your roof. There are roof shovels which cost only $40-50 that can be used from the ground. There are black salt pucks that you can throw up on the roof to melt the snow (I understand there may be some corrosion issues with this solution). You may even have some friends or neighbors who have some safety equipment and could do this for you for not too much money. 

    The problem with trying to do this yourself is the icy nature of winter. Think about it: you would be putting a ladder on an icy surface and then resting it on another icy surface and then climbing up in winter boots with poor traction on the ladder (while also trying to carry a shovel). This would probably not be much of a problem if you were in a deep pile of snow and climbing up to a short roof. However, this can become very serious if you are over a hard surface no matter how far up you go. 
    It is particularly dangerous for some people to risk falling. If you have heart or lung disease you are more likely to overexert yourself which could cause you to become dizzy and lose your balance. If you are taking blooding thinning medication you are at much more risk for serious bleeding complications from an injury. If you are older you may more brittle bones which will break. Also, if you are older or have medical issues, you may have more complications healing from any injuries. 

    In summary: please be safe and avoid getting up on your roof to clear snow. 

  • Dangers of Shoveling Snow Off Your Roof 02/03/2015

    Just like last year, this year is turning out to be another snowy one. You may look out at your roof and see all the snow on it and think your roof could not possibly survive all that weight on it. Unfortunately, we are also seeing another repeat from last year: people becoming seriously injured because they tried to get up on their roof and clear the snow. 

    Read More

  • Dealing with the Flu and Stomach Flu 01/06/2015

    This is the time of year when norovirus becomes a nuisance. Norovirus is also known as “winter vomiting illness” or “stomach flu”. It causes a 1-2 day illness of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, cramping, and generally just not feeling well.

    Read More

  • ​Teenagers, Caffeine, and Sleep 11/25/2014

    I have covered this topic in the past but I thought it might be a good idea to revisit in light of the recent attention in the news paid toward caffeine.  CBS News reported recently an increase in reports to poison control centers regarding caffeine exposure and overdose. There have even been reported deaths.

    Read More

  • Should I Ask My Doctor for An Antibiotic for an Upper Respiratory Illness? 10/14/2014

    The vast majority of upper respiratory illnesses are “colds” which are viral infections that are self-limiting. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. However, doctors still sometimes prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory viral infections. There are several reasons for this.

    Read More

  • Walk at Least Five Minutes Every Hour 09/09/2014

    We have all heard the recommendation to increase our activity. We keep hearing this because there is strong evidence linking inactivity with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer (2).  The vast majority of medical experts recognize the health benefits of moderated, daily exercise.

    Read More

  • One of the toughest experiences we have all faced or will face one day is the loss of a loved one li 07/22/2014

    Do you know or live near an elderly person who lives alone? Living alone offers the advantage of freedom but may have a unique challenge of limited resources for help when needed. 

    Read More

  • Summertime and the Berries are Out: Is There a Reason You Should Not Eat Them? 06/03/2014

    In general, health providers and nutritionists recommend eating many fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Berries in particular have many studies to show how healthy they are.

    Read More

  • Food Safety Tips for Summer 05/13/2014

    Food left out can grow and become a source of illness anytime of the year. However, summertime is a particularly vulnerable time because there are more picnics and gatherings, and the temperatures are warmer. There are three problems with food borne illness, improper food preparation, susceptible foods, and improper food storage.

    Read More

  • Are Blood Transfusions Safe in the Hospitalized Patient? 04/08/2014

    Ever since we were able to offer blood transfusions (about the 1940’s), it has been common wisdom that higher red blood cell counts are good for you. We know that red blood cells carry oxygen and some athletes use this to their advantage when they train at higher altitudes in order to increase their red blood cell level (or engage in the illegal activity of “blood doping”).

    Read More

  • March is Colorectal Cancer Screening Month 03/04/2014

    Colorectal cancer is one of the more common cancers.  It is estimated that each of us has a six percent chance of being diagnosed with colon cancer in our lives.  The most important thing that we can do is try to prevent colon cancer with a healthy diet, high fiber intake, exercise, and not smoking. 

    Read More

  • Avoiding Roof Snow Removal When Possible 01/21/2014

    Two weekends ago was a snowy time and there were public service announcements urging homeowners to clear the snow off of their roofs. Every year as it gets snowier we see these ads and every year we at Eastern Maine Medical Center treat many people with fall injuries. This particular weekend we saw 20 people in the Emergency Room who fell off their roofs and 6 were admitted with serious injuries.

    Read More

  • Do you have “Low-T” and should you get it treated? 11/26/2013

    I have been impressed lately by the number of ads on TV and in the magazines for testosterone replacement therapy. I know you’ve seen them: the ad for “low T” that shows a happy, handsome middle-aged man with a happy younger woman clearly in love with each other driving down a scenic road in a vintage, really snazzy car.

    Read More

  • Long Term Use of Proton Pump Inhibitors (Acid Blocking Medication) 10/01/2013

    PPI’s (Proton Pump Inhibitors) is a class of popular drugs used to treat GERD (Gastro esophageal Reflux Disease).  Some trade names for these drugs are Nexium, Protonix, Prevacid, and Prilosec. 

    Read More

  • Screening for Lung Cancer in High Risk Patients 09/17/2013

    Several years ago the National Cancer Institute funded a large trial looking at screening for lung cancer in high-risk patients and the results have been recently released.  High risk was defined as amount and length of time of tobacco exposure (1). 

    Read More

  • Good News About the Pneumonia Vaccine 08/27/2013

    Starting in 2001, most children born in the US received a pneumonia vaccine. Pneumococcus is the principle cause of pneumonia and meningitis in children younger than two years old. This vaccine was effective against seven of the most common strains of pneumonia.

    Read More

  • Chronic Pain May Need a Novel Therapeutic Approach 06/04/2013

    Many of us probably know someone with chronic pain. If you do, then you may also be familiar with the difficulty in adequately treating pain in these individuals. Acute pain is the immediate pain that we feel as a warning sign to tell us to stop doing something or to tell us that something is wrong.

    Read More

  • How to be an Effective Patient Self-Advocate 04/30/2013

    In today’s complex medical world it is no longer acceptable to be a passive participant in your medical care and to leave all the decision making to the physicians.  Patients with complex medical issues may be seeing multiple providers and also may have their care at more than one institution. 

    Read More

  • March is Colorectal Cancer Screening Month 02/26/2013

    Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cause of cancer, excluding skin cancers, and cancer deaths in Maine. The good news is that it may be somewhat preventable.

    Read More

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen: What is the difference? 11/27/2012

    Because I am a surgeon, I often have to talk to my patients about managing pain both before and after surgery. As such, I discuss using over the counter (OTC) pain medications with my patients. Many of my patients are confused about how to use the medications and what are the side effects. I also find that many of them think that Tylenol and Motrin are the same.

    Read More

  • Non-Narcotic Pain Management 10/16/2012

    Hardly a week goes by that we do not read about some part of Maine's narcotic problem. This is a really complex problem. As a surgeon, I prescribe narcotics frequently. The vast majority of patients use as little narcotic as possible.

    Read More

  • Are Energy Shots Safe? 09/18/2012

    You’ve seen those cute little colorful bottles near the cash register. The most popular “shot” is “5 Hour Energy." If you look at the ingredients there is a listing of B vitamins and then a “proprietary” blend of supplements which includes caffeine.

    Read More

  • Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids Going to School 09/11/2012

    Every parent I know has this problem: how do we come up with healthy snacks for our children that are not too hard to put together, and that our children will actually eat? It is so tempting to throw in a bag of chips or cookies. 

    Read More

  • Is Your Child's Backpack Too Heavy? 08/22/2012

    We see it all the time: small children carrying backpacks that seem larger than they are. Teenagers carrying backpacks on one shoulder that are so heavy they are leaning to one side. Is this a problem? It turns out this is the major cause of back and neck pain in school children.

    Read More

  • Safety Concerns with Getting a Camp Fire Started 06/26/2012

    It is summer and now is the time that many people want to burn brush or have a camp fire. However, it can sometimes be fairly difficult getting a fire started when the wood is green or damp, it is windy, or you do not have any kindling.

    Read More

  • New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines 05/15/2012

    Good news for women: gone are the days of recommending annual Pap exams.

    Read More

  • A New Investigational Drug for Brain Injured Patients 03/27/2012

    Brain injury is very difficult to treat because there are no effective medications. When someone suffers a serious brain injury the only options for the medical team is to support them through the healing process.

    Read More

  • It's Time to Start Thinking About New Year's Resolutions 12/27/2011

    Most of us start thinking about our New Year's resolution about this time of year. Common reslutions are to lose weight, eat more healthfully, and get more organized. The problem with many of these resolutions is that they are too vague and the goals are too lofty

    Read More

  • Are Barefoot Running Shoes a Gimic? 10/03/2011

    You have probably seen these new shoes around town. They are the ones that are very thin and have toes. Why are people wearing them? If you stop and ask them, they will tell you that it is a more natural way to walk or run. The belief is that we were born as humans to run and we started out in pre-historic times without any shoes. So, let’s look at that statement.

    Read More

  • National Salt Reduction Initiative 09/06/2011

    Americans consume about twice the amount of salt that is recommended in our diets. This is approximately a doubling of the amount we consumed forty years ago. We cannot live without salt.  Salt contains sodium which is vital to many cellular functions.

    Read More

  • ​Swimmer's Ear 06/28/2011

    It is that time of year and the lakes are warming up. As the temperatures rise, we will be spending more time in the water. Because of this, a few of us will get Swimmer’s Ear. This is an infection of the external ear canal that causes pain, itching, a wet and full feeling in ear, pain with jaw movement, drainage from the ear canal, and sometimes neck soreness (from swollen nodes).

    Read More

  • Which Sun Screen Is The Best? 05/17/2011

    Given Chris Ewing’s weather forecast tonight, it may be a bit hard to fathom needing sun screen anytime soon.  However, we are all hoping for a great, sunny summer.  Since summer is only a few weeks away, this would be a good time to review some facts about sunscreen.

    Read More

  • April is Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month 04/26/2011

    The gift of life is a precious act of generosity as individuals who make provisions to donate their organs enable others to live. Across the nation, the month April, symbolizing the awakening of spring and renewal of life, is designated as Donate Life Month.

    Read More

  • Seat Belts Save Lives 03/22/2011

    In 2007, I went to Augusta along with many others to support a bill to make failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offence.  Why did I do this?  Because, seatbelts save lives.  It’s that simple. See, I am in the life-saving business.  I am a trauma surgeon.  If everyone wore seatbelts, didn’t drink and drive, and paid attention while driving, I wouldn’t have much work to do!

    Read More

  • Does Your Surgeon’s Lack of Sleep Affect Your Surgical Risk? 03/15/2011

    Since we are all just a bit sleep deprived because of the time change, I thought it would be appropriate to cover the topic of sleep deprivation for this segment.  I have covered this topic before but not as it concern the surgeon and the patient

    Read More

  • Corrections regarding statements about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS): The controversy and common s 02/15/2011

    Last month I discussed HFCS in this segment.  I have been doing this segment since 2000 and have never received any mail commenting on my segment.  However, this segment generated two well-written letters from experts in Massachusetts and New Jersey. 

    Read More

  • What is High Fructose Corn Syrup and why is it bad for you? 01/11/2011

    Healthy Living on WABI has in the past covered the dangers of drinking soft drinks because of the hidden sugars and extra calories. However, is it as simple as just extra calories from sugar or is the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used as the sweetener that is particularly harmful?

    Read More

  • Complications of Body Piercing 12/07/2010

    Body piercing that includes areas other than ear lobes is gaining acceptance.  One of the reasons that this is interesting to me as a surgeon is that I am now seeing more patients with complications from these piercings.

    Read More

  • Vitamin D: The New Wonder Vitamin 11/02/2010

    Most of us learned in school that Vitamin D is important for our bone health and that we get it from being in the sun.  This is true.  The sun on our exposed skin, along with our liver and kidneys, acts to convert the inactive molecule to the active vitamin.

    Read More

  • Beer Bellies 101 09/07/2010

    There is nothing particularly special about beer that makes it cause a beer belly. A “beer belly” is nothing more than just being overweight. Any type of extra calories will lead to a beer belly although it does seem that alcohol has a tendency to cause fat to accumulate around the midsection.

    Read More

  • Are you taking Plavix and an “acid blocker”? 07/20/2010

    Many patients with heart disease and particularly those with a heart stent are on a drug called Plavix (clopidogrel). This is a drug that inhibits platelets and reduces the risk of a blood clot which can cause a heart attack. 

    Read More

  • National Drinking Water Safety Week 05/04/2010

    Every year the Federal Government, along with organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Water Works Association, kicks off a week-long awareness campaign about our drinking water supply. 

    Read More

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome 04/06/2010

    Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is a condition of the colon. We do not know what causes it and therefore it is very difficult to know how to cure it. The current most common medical theory is that IBS is a disorder of the nerves that control the function of the colon. 

    Read More

  • Should You be Taking an Aspirin a Day? 02/09/2010

    Originally used as a pain reliever, Aspirin has been around for more than 100 years. It works by reducing platelets’ ability to clump and cause clots. Platelets tend to want to clot when the arteries are damaged by trauma (an injury that causes bleeding) or by atherosclerosis (hardening of the artery that is caused by plaque deposits). 

    Read More

  • Improving Our Surgical Care 01/12/2010

    Most of us know that if we need surgery, we need to choose a qualified surgeon. We then assume that the surgeon and their hospital will do everything they can to prevent any post-operative complications.

    Read More

  • Holiday Road Trips 12/22/2009

    This is one of the times of year when many of you will be planning a road trip.  Unfortunately, this is also a time of year of treacherous driving.  Before you begin your trip, please take a moment to assess a few safety issues:

    Read More

  • How Much Caffeine is Too Much Caffeine? 11/10/2009

    First, I should declare a conflict of interest since I am an avid coffee drinker. None the less, I’ve had patients and friends tell me that they are going to try to cut down how much caffeine they consume. When I ask why they are concerned, I hear about the fear of heart disease, cancer, and breast disease. It turns out that these are not valid concerns.

    Read More

  • Hunter Safety 10/03/2009

    It is that time of year again when we need to talk about hunter safety. Admittedly, accidents from hunting are down compared with a few decades ago. However, the recent events in the news serves to remind us that this enjoyable activity has some dangers that can mostly be avoided.

    Read More

  • Concussions 09/22/2009

    Although anyone at any age can get a concussion, this time of year is particularly important because of the start of the sports season in the schools. A concussion happens when there is a blow to the head that causes either a loss of consciousness, a brief lapse of memory, or a feeling of dizziness or being dazed.

    Read More

  • Don't Guess, Call EMS 08/25/2009

    This is to quote Thomas Judge, director of Lifeflight of Maine. For years, we have known that Mainers are hesitant to call the ambulance when they are having chest pain.  There are many reasons for this. Most people think that their pain is “really no big deal.” 

    Read More

  • Sodas Should Be Reserved for Special Occasions 07/28/2009

    We've all heard that sodas are bad for you.  Most of us just don't believe that a few sodas a day or a week are going to cause a problem.  It is true that it is hard to make the connection between a few sodas and tooth decay and bone loss.

    Read More

  • Living with Celiac Disease 03/31/2009

    Celiac sprue, or celiac disease, is an inherited disorder of the digestive system. As an autoimmune condition, meaning the body's own immune system causes the damage, celiac sprue reacts to certain proteins in wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

    Read More

  • ​The Organ Donation Process 03/23/2009

    There is extensive information available about how to become an organ and tissue donor. Most of us by now know that there are 100,000 people in the US waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. We even make it easy in the state of Maine by allowing you to designate yourself as a donor when you get or renew your driver’s license.  However, there is almost no information out there about what this might mean for your loved ones if the time comes for them to be notified that you are a potential organ donor.

    Read More

  • Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism 03/10/2009

    The vast majority of the medical community has never believed there was any link between being vaccinated and developing autism. In fact, most parents also have not believed this since over 95 percent vaccinate their children.

    Read More

  • Being a Bone Marrow Donor 02/17/2009

    Most of us have heard of someone’s family or friends holding a bone marrow drive.What we may not know is why they are doing this and what it entails of the potential donor. In order to be in the donor registry, we must first give a sample of our cells through a blood draw or a swipe of cheek cells to the donor program.

    Read More

  • ​Stem Cells 01/13/2009

    The use of stem cells in research has created a bit of controversy over the last few years.  Most of the controversy arises from either a philosophical difference of opinion or from lack of knowledge about stem cells.  This article is going to explain what stem cells are and where they come from.  Not all stem cell research is controversial.

    Read More

  • Core Muscles Exercises Should be the Core of your Exercise Routine 09/23/2008

    Just about everyone knows that exercise is part of a healthy living routine.  When people think of exercise, they think of walking, running, swimming, or some other type of activity that involves strength and speed.

    Read More

  • Cholesterol screening of children 07/08/2008

    We know that that obesity is an ever-increasing epidemic.  We also can now see that children are not being spared from this epidemic.  We know that high cholesterol, particularly high LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), is dangerous to heart health.

    Read More

  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's) 06/03/2008

    I am sure that anyone reading this knows that it is a good idea to wear a personal floatation device (PFD) when you are on a boat in the water.  However, I also know that many of us do not routinely follow this device.

    Read More

  • Treatment Options for Heavy Menstrual Bleeding 05/06/2008

    Many women experience heavy menstrual bleeding (otherwise known as dysfunction uterine bleeding DUB).  DUB can become more common in our 40’s and 50’s.

    Read More

  • Cancer Screening 04/01/2008

    Happy April Fool’s Day.  This is a good time not to let yourself be fooled.  One good way to do this is to reassess where you stand in terms of cancer screening.  If you are over 20, you should start with an annual or every other year health exam that would look for cancers of the thyroid, lymph nodes, testes and ovaries, and skin.  The following recommendations are for people of average risk and are listed by body site.

    Read More

  • Back Pain 02/26/2008

    Back pain is one of the most frequent health problems encountered in a medical office or emergency room. In fact most people will have at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime

    Read More

  • Therapeutic hypothermia 02/08/2008

    Therapeutic hypothermia is the cooling of a patient for medical treatment of a disease.  Usually, providers in a hospital spend quite a bit of energy trying to prevent hypothermia particularly after surgery or in trauma patients.

    Read More

  • Weight Loss: Portion Control and Hidden Calories 01/08/2008

    It is the start of a new year and one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier or to lose weight.  Most people know by now that there is no diet out there that is going to be successful for many people. 

    Read More