Winter Hazards

Vol. 2 No. 5

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Most of the country is celebrating a mild winter. However, snow, ice, and extreme cold has still made an appearance—a risky appearance—in northern states. For those cold-loving outdoorsmen at heart, this is a great time of year to get outdoors and kick up some snow. With any extreme weather, there are risks and safety precautions to be aware of.

Injuries are more common in the winter because cold-weather activities such as ice skating, sledding, snowboarding, and the like often involve kids. These activities can be dangerous and even deadly if not approached with caution and care. For example, the first step to any downhill winter sport is selecting the perfect slope. Hills that end near streets and parking lots are extremely dangerous even if traffic is not present at the time you begin to descend. Equally as risky are hills that end near ponds (even frozen ponds) or fences, as most winter injuries involve head and neck trauma. Try to find a hill free of bumps, trees, rocks, and other obstacles that children (and adults) could crash into. Remember, most winter sporting equipment does not come equipped with brakes. It is very hard to stop or slow down your momentum once you’re up to speed.

Extreme cold and/or exposure to cold weather for extended durations can also lead to serious health concerns. When it’s cold outside, muscles are at a greater risk of injury because they’re tighter. Wearing sensible, waterproof clothing can help reduce risks of muscle strain, frostbite, hypothermia, immersion syndrome, and chilblain. And, by avoiding long scarves and lose clothing you can help reduce the risk of strangulation and even accidents caused from the clothing becoming entangled with your sporting equipment.

Here are some quick tips you can share with parents and students.

  • Avoid wearing cotton clothing. Cotton does not retain warmth the same as wool or waterproof materials do.
  • Dress in layers. Kids are at a greater risk for frostnip and frostbite than adults—make sure they stay as warm and dry as possible while playing outdoors.
  • Change out of wet clothing as soon as possible.
  • Designate safe areas for children to play free of dangerous obstacles such as cars, trees, and water.
  • Encourage kids to play outdoors in groups.
  • Have an established emergency plan in case there is an injury.

For more information about cold-weather sport safety visit kidshealth.org.

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