12-31-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
To some children, freshly fallen snow means a huge hill, a group of friends and a swift sled. However, here at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, the emergency department has already seen a number of snow and sledding related injuries this winter. Before sending kids out into the cold, parents and caregivers should think about planning for winter fun activities to help children stay safe while enjoying the snow.
“Many children are into extreme sledding. Extreme sledding can cause several different types of injuries, especially to the head,” says Lisa Schwing, trauma program manager at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. Winter slope activitieshave moved from the traditional sled to snowboards and short skis. Unlike a sled, equipment like snowboards and skis take additional time to learn proper maneuver and control skills to be safe.
“Don’t just jump on a snowboard and think you are a pro,” Schwing says. “Doing that can lead to serious injuries.”
According to the National Safety Council, more than 30,000 children are treated for sledding and tobogganing accidents each year, with most accidents involving head related injuries. Last winter we didn't see much snow in Dayton but in 2010 between the months of December and February, The Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center in Dayton Children’s treated nearly 50 children for sledding-related injuries.
When children race out the door to sled down their favorite hill, Schwing recommends these tips to keep them safe on the slopes:
- Never sled alone.
- Choose hills with gentle slopes that have a long run off area at the end.
- Avoid hills that end at roads, railways, rivers, fences or parking lots.
- Do not sled around frozen lakes or ponds.
- Children younger than 12 years old always should have adult supervision.
- Only sled in daylight or well-lit areas.
- Choose hills that are free from trees, rocks, holes, fences and signs and avoid hills that have icy spots and grassy or dirt areas exposed.
Many times head injuries are caused by thrill-seeking children who sled head first or with four or more people on the same sled. According to Schwing, children never should sled headfirst. Instead, they should position themselves sitting up or kneeling. Helmets are strongly recommended for children younger than 12 years old to protect their heads.
Safety usually is the last thing on a child’s mind when looking for a sled. Children will use anything from a commercially made sled to cardboard boxes and garbage can lids. When buying a sled, parents should put safety first. While purchasing a sled, parents should look at the age of the child sledding because different age groups may require different types of sleds. For example, a 12 year old should not be on a sled for an 8 year old. Steering mechanisms also are important so children can have control while sledding.
Chilly weather calls for warm clothing. When it comes to dressing children for a day of sledding, children should dress as warmly as possible, with hats, gloves and scarves. Every day’s weather is different, and parents should follow the weather as a clothing guideline while sledding.
Children can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia when spending a long time outside. Frostbite is characterized by numb fingers, ears and noses and eventually can lead to redness and pain. Hypothermia is a decrease in body temperature, which can affect brain and muscle functions. One of the first signs of hypothermia can be a mental status change. If unable to get to warm surroundings, severe hypothermia can result in death. While sledding, hypothermia can occur quickly because exercise causes rapid heat loss. A child should never sled alone. Dressing warmly and appropriately can prevent hypothermia and frostbite.
For more information about children’s health and safety, visit our website at www.childrensdayton.org.
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