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Chillin' With Winter Safety

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It may be cold outside, but it’s just as important for children to get physical activity during the winter as it is during the warmer months. Physical activity should be a healthy part of your family’s routine throughout the year. And safety should always be a central part of your children’s recreational fun.

Fun in the Winter Sun

It’s true that many safety concerns are the same regardless of season. For example, parents still need to remembersunscreen. Even though it might seem odd, you can getsunburn in the winter. The sunlight reflects off snow and ice.
  • Choose a sunscreen made for children with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. (Check the label.) Apply the protection 15 to 30 minutes before going out. They need to be reapplied every one and a half to two hours, particularly if your child spends a lot of time outside. Consult the instructions on the bottle. 
  • You should also wear protective eyewear and an SPF lip balm.  

Safety in Layers

When thinking about outside activity, think about clothing, too. Layering is a good idea; so are moisture-wicking fabrics and clothing that’s geared to the sport. Keep in mind that regulating body temperature is more difficult in younger children (just as it is during warm weather), so hypothermia can occur more easily. For example, kids can sweat when they’re warm and, as they remove layers, that sweat can chill them quickly when it gets exposed to the cold air. 
Parents have to be really proactive and responsible about dressing children appropriately in layers, covering their heads and necks.
Watch out for fashion trends that could land you in the ER:
  • Long scarves and cords can get caught in sled blades.
  • Hoods can block peripheral vision.

Stay Alert

Injuries can happen anywhere, anytime. Be aware and use caution.
  • Children should always wear helmets while sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and playing ice hockey. 
  • Parents should also make sure that the hill your children are sledding down doesn’t empty onto a pond that might not be frozen solid. 
  • Don’t load up the sled with multiple riders; take turns. "Reckless play," or actively trying to crash into each other or knock people off, is obviously a setup for injury.   

Equipment Check

If you’re planning a skiing or snowboarding trip:
  • Have the equipment fitted by a professional.
  • A child in too-large boots can trip and fall.
  • A child in skis that aren’t the right size can fall, too.
  • Wrist fractures, commonplace in snowboarding, can be prevented by simply using wrist guards.
Safety is key in ice hockey or sports involving equipment. No one wants to buy new skates every year, but it may be necessary as your child grows.
Used equipment is fine, but check it out before you buy it:
  • Look at the laces.
  • Look for broken blades.
  • Make sure the leather on hockey and ice skates isn’t too broken down around the ankles.
  • If you need a mouth guard, wear one.
You have to check all equipment, new and old, to see that it fits. You need to check it to make sure it’s still safe or not broken. If it gets used a lot, it may not hold up. Make sure helmets and boots are sized correctly. Make sure the equipment is in good shape. If you’re concerned, ask a sales person at a ski shop.     

Skills Assessment

If it’s a new activity, work with your child to master the skill first. For example, play it safe by starting with a snowboarding lesson before you all hit the slopes.
It’s recommended, appropriate and safe, to start slow or on a more gentle slope. Practice with your equipment and gradually build up to a steeper slope or faster speed. Be patient and resist pressure to take on more than you’re ready for.
By taking a few precautions, you can make sure that your children get the healthy benefits ts of winter exercise without taking unnecessary risks.

Additional Resources

Last Updated
Adapted from Healthy Children Magazine, Winter 2008
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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