Dr. Daniel Firestone has some simple advice for not losing fingers to a snowblower: Don’t put your hand in one.

Omaha-area hospitals have reported eight snowblower-related injuries since Tuesday’s snowstorm.

Each year, about 5,000 finger- and hand-related injuries involving snowblowers occur, said Firestone, an orthopedic hand and upper extremity specialist for CHI Health.

“The problem is, especially with what we’ve had lately, if you’ve got more than 6 inches of accumulated snow, the snowblower is getting clogged,” Firestone said. “People are sticking their hands down the top to unclog it, and they think they’ve shut it off. And they haven’t.”

The injuries range from cuts and bruises to broken bones and the loss of one or more fingers.

Firestone offered this advice:

» Don’t stick your hand in the machine. Use a shovel handle or similar tool to dislodge chunks of ice or snow.

» Start clearing snow early. Taking multiple passes with less than 6 inches of accumulation is ideal for smooth operation.

» Spray down the inside of your blower with cooking oil.

» Don’t operate a snowblower if you have consumed alcohol.

Firestone said people never should put their hands inside a snowblower while it’s running. Users should turn off the machine and wait about five seconds for it to shut down.

People who sustain a snowblower-related injury should go immediately to the emergency room, Firestone said. If the injury involves cuts, he said, a doctor would numb the fingers and stitch the cut. Broken bones or torn skin could involve further surgery. Reattaching fingers or fingertips, he said, is tricky.

“When it’s off completely, it’s tough to reattach that,” Firestone said. “If it’s still hanging on by a little bit, the best thing to do is stitch it back on and hope that it’s going to scab over.”

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has more safety tips on its website.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1304, news@owh.com

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