Keeping Safe During Winter Activities

In many parts of the country, winter weather and activities are in full swing. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics on keeping you and your child safe during the fun.

In general

  • To prevent hypothermia and frostbite, have children come inside periodically to warm up. The colder is it outside, the more frequently children should take breaks to come inside.
  • Using alcohol or drugs before or during any winter activity, such as snowmobiling or skiing, is dangerous and should not be permitted in any situation.

Ice skating

  • Allow children to skate only on approved bodies of water.
  • Check for signs posted by local police or recreation departments, or call your local police department to find out which areas have been approved.
  • Advise your child to:
    o skate in the same direction as the crowd
    o avoid darting across the ice
    o never skate alone
    o not chew gum or eat candy while skating. (Generally, a good rule for all sports. A child could choke if they suddenly inhale.)
    o consider having your child wear a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads while skating

Sledding

  • Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.
  • Always supervise children while they are sledding.
  • Keep young children separated from older children.
  • Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.
  • Consider having your child wear a helmet while sledding.
  • Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes.
  • Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated.
  • Sled slopes should be free of obstructions such as trees or fences, should be covered in snow and not ice, should not be too steep (slope of less than 30 degrees), and end with a flat runoff (preferably not a road).
  • Avoid sledding in crowded areas.

Snow skiing and snowboarding

  • Children should be taught to ski or snowboard by a qualified instructor in a program designed for children.
  • Never ski or snowboard alone.
  • Young children should always be supervised by an adult. Older children’s need for adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If older children are not with an adult, they should always at least be accompanied by a friend.
  • All skiers and snowboarders should wear helmets. Ski facilities should require helmet use, but if they do not, parents should enforce the requirement for their children.
  • Equipment should fit the child. Skiers should wear safety bindings that are adjusted at least every year. Snowboarders should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. Eye protection or goggles should also be used.
  • Slopes should fit the ability and experience of the skier or snowboarder. Avoid crowded slopes.
  • Avoid skiing in areas with trees and other obstacles.

Snowmobiling

  • The AAP recommends that children under age 16 not operate snowmobiles, and that children under age 6 never be allowed to ride on snowmobiles.
  • Do not use a snowmobile to pull a sled or skiers.
  • Wear goggles and a safety helmet that have been approved for use on motorized vehicles like motorcycles.
  • Travel at safe speeds.
  • Never snowmobile alone or at night.
  • Stay on marked trails, away from roads, water, railroads, and pedestrians.

Sun protection

  • The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they are reflected off of snow. Make sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen.

Fire protection

Winter is a time when household fires are more likely to occur. It is a good time to remember to:

  • Buy and install smoke alarms on every floor of your home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Practice fire drills with your children.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector outside bedrooms.

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