Winter Wonderland of Safety Tips
Here are some tips on how you can help kids have fun with Frosty while also keeping them safe.
By Heather Hatfield
Reviewed By Michael Smith
Winter can be downright cold, and with the frosty air settling in for the long-haul, all you want to do is settle in for a long winter's nap. But your kids are ready to make the most of the miserable weather -- with ski trips, sledding, ice hockey, and more.
From teaching your young drivers how to handle snowy roads, to knowing when it's just too darn cold for your kids to venture out, WebMD has some safety tips on how you and your kids can safely enjoy the winter weather.
When the kids are ready to head out into the winter wonderland, there are a few factors to take into consideration. Richard Judelsohn, MD, a pediatrician in Buffalo, N.Y., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics tells WebMD:
Wild Winter Sports
Most kids are involved in one kind of winter sport or activity, be it ice hockey, snowboarding, or even sledding, and each of these come with some amount of risk.
"The two most common injuries are limb injury, either a bruise or a fracture, and head injury," says Judelsohn. "So it is very important for any sport, in particular outdoor sports, that proper protective gear be used. As a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, we strongly recommend head gear for any sport that can cause a head injury, like skiing, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding and tobogganing."
Another important item on the checklist is to check your child's equipment and know your child's skill level. "Make sure your children's equipment is appropriate for their size and their level of skill, and make sure it's functioning properly," Judelsohn says.
"One of the biggest factors is to know your child's limitations. "For example, a 9 year old shouldn't be playing physical checking hockey with 14 year olds; and on the slopes, if your child is a novice, don't take them to most difficult hill."
When the roads are slick with ice and snow, driving can become treacherous. Here are some tips that will keep you and your kids safe on the roads this winter:
Pack an emergency kit. The American Automobile Association web site recommends you stock your car with an emergency kit that contains:
"As good as cars are today, they can still break down, so keep warm clothes and an emergency kit in the car, and most importantly, especially for young drivers who think they're strong and athletic and can walk a couple of miles for help in the winter, that's a mistake--the safest place to be is in the car," says John Paul, spokesman and Car Doctor for the American Automobile Association.
Teach young drivers winter safety skills. Adults can have difficulties driving during bad weather, so young drivers are especially at risk. Teach your kids who are new behind the wheel how to handle the ice and snow.
"It's all about practice and getting experience," says Paul. "Take a young driver out to an empty parking lot and slide around in the snow a little so they can experience what it feels like, how to avoid it, and how to correct it."
Also caution your teens that drive to slow it down on slick roads -- even if they're driving a sport utility vehicle (SUV). "On a snowy day, even though the speed limit is 40 or 50, you need to cut that speed in half and double the distance between you and the cars around you," says Paul. "SUV and all-wheel drive cars give people a false sense of confidence, especially new drivers. The SUV will get you up the hill better than rear-wheel or front-wheel drive, but it's nothing more than a 5,000 pound toboggan going down it; it won't improve breaking, and when people drive too fast in an SUV because they think they can, they skid just like any other car."
Also Paul encourages adults to be especially mindful in winter when driving with small children. "Parents will bundle their children in snow suits and then put them in a child passenger safety seat, and this takes away from the protection that is offered because the belts may not fit them properly with the added layers," he explains. "What you want to do is keep them in their regular clothes, buckle them in, and put their coats over them so they stay warm."
When you decide it is just too darn cold to send the kids outside to play, remember that you need to keep them safe inside.
According to the National Fire Protection Association web site, heating equipment, such as space heaters and wood stoves, is the No. 1 cause of home fires during the months of December, January, and February.
"One of the chief concerns we have during winter is heating equipment fires, primarily with space heaters," says Margie Coloian, spokeswoman for the National Fire Prevention Agency. "To prevent fires, we recommend you shut them off when you leave the room and when you sleep, and position them three feet away from anything that can burn. You also don't want children or your pets to tip space heaters over or be burned by older models that can get really hot, so make sure they stay away from them."
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer. "We recommend homes have carbon monoxide detectors," says Coloian. "When you burn fuel, including gas or oil, the carbon monoxide that is let off can build up, and if it's confined, it could be dangerous."
Keeping Rover Warm
Winter is no time to ignore your furry friends; pets need extra protection during the cold months, too. Here are some tips from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association that will help keep your pets warm and happy:
Originally published Jan. 19, 2004.
Medically updated Jan. 18, 2005.
SOURCES: Margie Coloian, spokeswoman, National Fire Prevention Agency, Quincy, Mass. Richard Judelsohn, MD, pediatrician, Buffalo, N.Y.; spokesman American Academy of Pediatrics. John Paul, spokesman, American Automobile Association. American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.
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