Top Tips for Safety in the Snow

Robert J. Deutsch, MD, MPH, FAAP children-ski-safety

Do you want to build a snowman? Or ride snowmobiles around the yard? If so, safety is key. Regardless of age or developmental levels, winter sports are fun for the whole family. However, it is important to stay safe to ensure a full season of outdoor activities – otherwise, you and your child may be stuck indoors while everyone else is outside enjoying the fun!

Tips to Prepare for Outdoor Activities:

  • Dress warm: Several layers will keep children dry and warm. Don’t forget boots, gloves, mittens and a hat. As a general rule, dress infants and young children in one layer more than you would wear in similar weather conditions.
  • Apply sunblock: When you’re skiing, sledding, skating or snowboarding, sunlight reflects off of snow and ice, and your child can get sunburned quickly. Make sure to wear a lip balm with SPF as well.

For any outdoor activity, parents should set reasonable time limits on outdoor play to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Have children come inside periodically to warm up and change into dry clothing before going back out to play. For parents of young adults and teens, it’s critical to remind them that using alcohol or drugs before any winter activity, like snowmobiling or skiing, is dangerous and unacceptable.

Ice Skating Safety

Have you ever noticed penguins don’t slip and fall on ice? It’s because they walk flat footed, take short steps, walk with their arms at their sides and concentrate on maintaining balance. This winter, walk like a penguin and help stop winter falls.

Ice skating should only occur on approved surfaces. In places where it gets very cold, you may be able to skate outdoors on frozen ponds and lakes. These spots must be approved for skating because ice that looks strong may not be able to hold your or your child’s weight.

  • Children should always skate in the same direction as the crowd.
  • Avoid chewing gum or eating candy while skating to prevent choking.
  • Consider wearing a helmet and protective elbow, wrist and knee pads, especially while learning to skate.

Sledding Safety

Sledding; the most enjoyed activity of those enjoying a snow day from school. Before rushing up that big hill, make sure your child is using a sled that is sturdy and that they can steer. The seat of the sled should be padded. Never use homemade sleds like trash can lids, plastic bags or pool floats. A recent study looked at how fast children and adults went while sledding – and the average was 19 miles per hour!

It is important to make sure children who are sledding are always going down the hill feet first to prevent head trauma. Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like trees, buildings or fences, should be covered in snow and not ice, should not be too steep, and should end with a flat runoff.  Helmet use should be encouraged as well.

Skiing and Snowboarding Safety

Before your child hits the slopes, make sure he or she has the right equipment that fits properly to prevent injury. This includes boots, helmets, gloves and goggles. Snowboarders should wear knee and elbow pads too.

  • Have your child take at least one skiing or snowboarding lesson before starting out on his own.
  • Make sure the trail or hill is appropriate for your child’s level of comfort and skill.
  • Avoid crowded slopes and slopes with obstacles such as trees whenever possible.

Recently, snowmobiling has become very popular. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises children under 16 to avoid operating snowmobiles. Even with the most responsible of adults, accidents can happen; a little joy ride with a child under the age of 6 can turn into a big injury. Stick to snow tubing and the bunny slopes until they’re a little older!

Goggles and a safety helmet approved for use on motorized vehicles like motorcycles or ATVs should always be worn, and snowmobiles should never be used to pull people on snowboards or skis. Snowmobiling should never occur alone, and the snowmobile should be kept on designated trails.

Whether you’re outside singing “Let it Snow” or begging someone to come out to build a snowman, we hope you have found these tips useful, and that you and your children have a safe and healthy winter season.

About Robert J. Deutsch, MD, MPH, FAAP
Robert J. Deutsch, MD, MPH, FAAP, joined Emergency Medical Associates in 2009. He is clinical director of the pediatric emergency department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. He also works clinically in the pediatric emergency department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J.

Dr. Deutsch received his undergraduate degree and his medical degree from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. He completed his pediatric residency at North Shore-LIJ in New Hyde Park, N.Y., and his pediatric emergency medicine fellowship at The University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y., where he also obtained his master’s degree in public health.

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