Winter weather means sledding, skating and maybe a snowball fight or two. Help keep your kids safe while enjoying winter sports with a few tips from Carilion Children’s pediatric surgeon Kathryn Bass, M.D.
A bright, cold winter day calls for outside play. Make sunscreen your children's first layer, and then dress them in layers of warm clothing. Dr. Bass reminds parents to bring the kids inside periodically to warm up, replace wet clothing and prevent hypothermia or frostbite.
“Children are at higher risk of dehydration than adults, even in cold weather,” said Dr. Bass. “So be sure they drink plenty of water before, during and after their activities.”
Get the Right Gear
Head injuries are one of the leading causes of death and serious injury for active kids, so be sure to have a properly fitting helmet before you head out to your favorite sledding spot. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends using a skate-style or ski/snowboard helmet, but if you don't have one of those, a bicycle helmet is better than no helmet at all.
“Be sure to also use the protective gear your child's favorite sport requires,” said Dr. Bass, an expert in pediatric trauma. “That may include shin guards, mouth guards, goggles or knee pads.”
Give the sports equipment a safety check too, before sending your kids down the sledding hill:
- Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters
- Make sure the steering mechanism is well lubricated
- Choose hills that are free of obstructions like trees or fences
- Make sure the sledding surface is snow, not ice
“Always sled feet first or sitting up instead of lying down head-first,” advises Dr. Bass. “Don’t be a daredevil!”
And be aware that not every hill is a good sledding hill:
- Avoid hills that are too steep
- Make sure any hills you choose end with a flat runoff area
- Avoid sledding in crowded areas
- Don’t play on snowbanks formed by snowplows; oncoming plows and/or other traffic might not see you or your children
- Don’t sled near any cars or traffic
Dr. Bass recognizes that sometimes you might take every precaution and accidents can still happen.
“Make sure you know the signs of a concussion or head injury,” she said. “They may appear right away or not until days or even weeks after injury.”