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Winter Safety Tips for Parents

After long school days spent indoors, kids are anxious for some fun, sun and excitement. They flock to the ski hills, the sledding hills, the ice rinks and even their own back yards to participate in winter time activities, activities that present their own unique sets of risks and perils. By using some common sense guidelines, Wisconsin winter activities can be fun and safe.

Cold and Exposure  |  Skating  |  Sledding


Cold and Exposure

Inadequate protection or prolonged exposure to winter cold and wind can result in frostbite and/or hypothermia. Whatever the activity, children must dress appropriately for the weather conditions.

Some practices for protecting children against cold related dangers include:

  • Dress children warmly using boots, hats and mittens
  • Layer clothing
  • Dress children in water repellant outer clothing
  • Make sure clothing is dry and stays dry
  • Tuck in loose scarves, drawstrings, etc.
  • Limit the length of exposure, especially in colder temperatures and windy conditions (be mindful of wind chill)
  • Allow children to warm up indoors with a warm drink such as hot chocolate

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Skating

Horseplay and even accidental falls can result in bumps and bruises, cuts, broken bones and head injuries. Skating on ponds, rivers, lakes and other deep bodies of water can result in drowning or near-drowning situations. Follow these guidelines for a safe skating outing:

  • Skate on approved surfaces only
  • Do not skate where "thin ice" signs appear
  • Don't skate alone
  • No horseplay
  • Children under 12 years of age should wear a bicycle or multi-sport helmet
  • On a crowded rink, skate in the same direction as the crowd and don't dart in and out between other skaters
  • Again, dress appropriately and limit exposure to harsh temperatures
  • Layered clothing provides additional padding in case of falls

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Sledding

Sledding is a fun and popular winter activity that the whole family can enjoy. Unfortunately, sledding injuries send thousands of children to the emergency department every year. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in sled related injuries. Many are serious, requiring hospitalization and some of the injuries even result in death. Common sledding injuries include cuts and bruises, broken bones, broken necks and backs and head injuries resulting from collisions, lost control and falls off the equipment. Are you aware of the potential hazards that sliders encounter? If you think that these concerns are unfounded, remember that a typical sled can go 15-20 miles per hour and more. By becoming aware of the risks of sledding and using the following guidelines, you can prevent many of these injuries.

  • Choose designated sledding hills with a gentle slope and long run off area, avoid steep hills
  • Choose hills with packed snowy surfaces and avoid ice covered hills
  • Be sure that the hill is free of obstacles such as trees, signs, fences, poles, drop offs and rocks
  • Don't slide into parking areas, roadways or rivers and lakes
  • Always ride sitting and facing forward (going down head first increases the chance of head and spinal injuries)
  • Tuck in arms and legs and loose clothing such as scarves and drawstrings
  • Dress appropriately
  • Children should be monitored for wet clothing, chilling, cold exposure and fatigue
  • Children under 12 should be supervised by an adult
  • Children under 5 should have an adult on the sled with them
  • Sledding equipment should be in good repair with no sharp edges
  • Avoid "jumps" that send a slider airborne (the higher they fly, the harder they fall)
  • Use sleds or other devices that are easily controlled (inflatable tubes are hard to control)
  • Sleds with runners and steering are preferred
  • Children under 12 years of age should wear a bicycle or multi-sport helmet
  • Layers of clothing protect against cold and also act as padding during spills
  • Use well-lighted areas for evening sledding
  • Walk up the side when returning to the top of the hill
 

Last Revised:  September 19, 2013