Winter weather offers families the chance to enjoy all kinds of fun cold weather activities. Don't let winter keep you in the house, but do make sure your kids are prepared to safely enjoy cold weather activities.
What are the dangers of cold weather, especially for children?
Check out these tips from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety, for information about hypothermia, frostbite, and how to prepare your home and car in the wintertime. Keep in mind that hypothermia can occur in temperatures as high as 50-60 degrees if conditions are damp and windy. Babies and the elderly are at highest risk.
Find out more from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Can sledding be dangerous?
According to the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission), there were more than 160,000 sledding, snow tubing and tobogganing-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics in 2007. Head injuries are a common and serious kind of sledding injury.
What can I do to keep my child safe while sledding?
Follow these tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to prevent injuries while sledding:
- Adults should always supervise children while they are sledding.
- Make sure the hill is safe: that means a hill without obstacles in the sledding path, which doesn’t end near a street, parking lot, pond, or other danger.
- Take time to avoid collisions.
- Children under age 12 should wear a fitted helmet while sledding.
- Never go down a hill headfirst; sit facing forward and steer.
- Use a sled that can steer—it’s safer than flat sheets, toboggans or snow discs.
- If you want to go sledding in the evening, make sure the area is well lit.
- Wear warm and layered clothing to protect from injuries and the cold.
- Be familiar with skiing and snowboarding safety guidelines.
- Prepare before you hit the slopes by being in good physical condition and taking lessons.
- Use the right equipment and make sure it’s in good condition.
- Wear a helmet. Helmet use by skiers and snowboarders could reduce head injuries by about fifty percent.
- When skiwear shopping, purchase fabrics which are water and wind resistant. Clothing should not be loose at the ankles or wrists. Collars that completely cover the neck are also helpful for wind resistance.
- Dress in layers.
- Use sunblock. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sun reflecting off snow is surprisingly strong; the snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays. When you’re skiing or snowboarding in the mountains, your sun exposure is even higher because there’s less atmosphere to block the sun’s rays.
- Wear eye protection. Goggles or glasses help protect your eyes from the sun and flying objects.
- Make sure your child memorizes and follows the National Ski Patrol’s Responsibility Code
- Get lots more skiing and snowboarding safety tips from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
- Find out more about helmets, snow sports safety and kids from Lids on Kids.
- Skates should fit comfortably and provide ankle support.
- Only skate in designated skating areas where the ice is known to be strong.
- Always check for cracks, holes, and debris on the ice.
- Never skate alone.
- Find out more about ice hockey safety:
- Be familiar with the Heads up, don't duck! campaign to prevent ice hockey spine injuries.
- The AAP has issued a policy statement on Safety in youth ice hockey: the effects of body checking.
- Video: Concussions in Hockey is a free video from Massachusetts Hockey.
- Ice Hockey Safety Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
- Listen to the AAP's Minute for Kids about Body Checking in Hockey.
- Find out about youth snowmobile safety on YourChild: Recreational Vehicle Safety.
- Winter Storm Disaster Fact Sheet—from the AAP.
- Cold, ice and snow safety—from Kidshealth.org.
- For information on frostbite in Spanish: Congelaciónes.
- Print a frostbite instruction sheet.
- Audio from the AAP:
- YourChild: Recreational Vehicle Safety.
- YourChild: Playground and Outdoor Play Safety
- YourChild: Sports Safety
- YourChild: Hunting and Shooting Sports Safety
Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN. Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan.
Updated January 2012
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