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2 dead in Renfrew County after suffering cardiac arrest while shovelling snow

People shovel snow in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood earlier this winter. Paramedics in Renfrew County say two people there died after going into cardiac arrest while shovelling in the wake of this weekend's big snowstorm. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People shovel snow in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood earlier this winter. Paramedics in Renfrew County say two people there died after going into cardiac arrest while shovelling in the wake of this weekend's big snowstorm. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Two people from Renfrew County died after going into cardiac arrest while shovelling snow from yesterday's winter storm, the county's chief paramedic says.

The victims were both between 50 and 70 years old, Michael Nolan said Sunday. He did not share their names or any other information about them.

"Certainly the tragedy of any loss of life is something that hits a community like Renfrew County particularly hard," Nolan said.

After Saturday's major snowfall, Nolan said many members of the community were shovelling their walkways and other areas.

Bystanders in both situations gave the victims CPR and quickly called paramedics, Nolan said, but the two people died in hospital.

Paramedics often expect to get calls about injuries, shortness of breath and other medical complications connected to things like slips and falls, Nolan said.

"We want to help people reduce their likelihood of injury or death by taking it easy and really thinking about how they're preparing and feeling while they're exerting so much energy," Nolan said.

"This drone program we're developing with Transport Canada is really breaking down the doors of the legislation and the regulations," said Renfrew's paramedic chief Michael Nolan.
"This drone program we're developing with Transport Canada is really breaking down the doors of the legislation and the regulations," said Renfrew's paramedic chief Michael Nolan.

Shovellers should watch for symptoms like dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath, said Michael Nolan, Renfrew County's chief paramedic. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Watch for dizziness, shortness of breath

Shovelling snow can be dangerous since many people aren't expecting to do high-intensity work, especially in cold temperatures that impact their vascular systems, said Stéphan Ouimette, an exercise physiologist.

"If you're going to shovel, most people tend to hold onto their breathing, which increases stress on their cardiovascular system," Ouimette said.

Along with general exercise and good nutrition, he recommends warming up before shovelling.

Nolan said people should watch for dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath. If they experience these symptoms, they should call paramedics, he said.

Anyone who is at risk for heart disease or has a pre-existing condition should have someone watch over them while they're shovelling, Nolan said.

"The last thing we would want for you is to be in distress and not be able to reach out for help," he said.