by Kimberly Blaker, contributing writer
EVERY YEAR 25,000 kids under the age of 15 are treated for sledding related injuries, according to Mayo Clinic. A U.S. emergency room analysis reveals an alarming 9% result in traumatic brain injuries. But these aren’t the only dangers associated with winter.
Travel, snow removal, heating, and even walking pose risks to kids and adults. The following tips will reduce your family’s risk of injury:
• Dress in layers with waterproof outerwear.
• Make sure sledding equipment is in good condition.
• Don’t sled in frigid temperatures or wind chills.
• Never sled toward railroad tracks, roads, parking lots, or bodies of water.
• Stick to gradual hills with plenty of runoff.
• Look for trees, signs, rocks, and other sledders before taking off.
• Never sled on icy surfaces or in poor visibility.
• Never stand or go down headfirst, and keep clothing, arms, and legs within the sled.
• If you stop or fall, quickly move out of others’ way.
• Never sled behind or be pulled by a vehicle.
• Supervise children under 12, and ride along if they’re under 5.
• Never skate or walk on ice less than four inches thick.
• Never go on ice alone.
• If ice skating, follow the same direction of other skaters and don’t cut directly in front of someone.
• Make sure ice skates are neither too tight nor too loose. Blades should be sharp and clean.
Snowmobiles, Snowboarding, and Skiing
• Check that boots and bindings fit properly and that all equipment is in good condition.
• Wear helmets, goggles, and waterproof outerwear.
• Get instruction from a professional on how to prevent and break falls.
• Never go on slopes alone. Make sure they’re approved for the specific activity, and only go on those for which you have adequate experience.
• Don’t allow children under 16 to drive snowmobiles.
Winter Driving and Travel
Snow-covered and icy roads drastically increase the risk of an accident or getting stranded. Automobiles also lead to thousands of carbon monoxide poisonings during the winter months. There are more than 200 deaths each year from auto-related carbon monoxide poisonings, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Here’s how to play it safe:
• Have your vehicle tuned up and the following items inspected before winter travel: brakes, tire tread, battery, antifreeze, lights and signals, wiper blades, spare tire, heater, and defroster. Also, always keep your gas tank at least halfway full.
• Be prepared for the unexpected. Keep extra hats, mittens, scarves, boots, chemical hand warmers, additional layers of clothing, and blankets in your vehicle to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Also, keep flares or reflectors, repair tools, flashlight, batteries, shovel, ice scraper, jumper cables, towrope or chain, and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. For distant travel or heading outside populated areas, bring drinking water, food, and medications in case of an extended wait.
• Take a cell phone for emergency use.
• Put sandbags in your trunk for better handling on snow and ice. Add 75 to 150 pounds, depending on vehicle size.
• Don’t lower your tire pressure. This can make handling difficult and cause additional wear on tires.
• Pay attention to weather reports.
• Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. If your vehicle is parked in the open, make sure snow hasn’t built up in or around the exhaust.
• Don’t drive in winter storms unless necessary. If you do, drive slowly and tell someone your travel
plans, including your route and estimated travel time.
• Never sit in a parked car that’s running unless a car window is open. Don’t leave your vehicle running in a garage.
• Don’t slam on your breaks on ice or snow. Slow down early. If you do not have an automatic brake system (ABS), pump the brakes to prevent skidding.
Snowblowers result in 1,000 amputations, and 5,300 emergency room visits annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When snow blowers become clogged, people often stick their hand into the chute to dislodge the snow. Even when the snowblower power is turned off, there is enough rotational force that once the snow or debris is removed, the blade can do a quarter to half turn.
• Don’t allow kids to run snow blowers.
• Never clean clogged snow from the blower with your hand. Turn off the power, let it sit for a minute, then use a broom handle or similar object to loosen snow.
• Don’t add fuel to a snowblower while it’s hot.
• Shoveling and pushing snow blowers is strenuous. If you have a history of heart trouble, don’t remove snow yourself without your doctor’s consent.
• Never leave a running snow blower unattended.
• Make sure animals and young children are out of the way before engaging the blower.
• When shoveling, push snow forward instead of lifting. If lifting is necessary, shovel small amounts and use your legs rather than your back to lift.
All heating elements pose dangers to your family. To keep them safe:
• Don’t leave children or pets unsupervised around space heaters. Also, keep space heaters three feet from anything that could catch fire, such as clothing or furniture.
• Get an annual furnace inspection and tune-up.
• Clean and inspect your fireplace chimney and flues annually. Never burn treated wood, pine branches, or paper, and keep fires covered with a screen.
• Don’t use an oven or range to heat your home, even for brief periods.
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms
Protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning and fire by installing carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors on each floor and near bedrooms. Signs of CO poisoning include dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms without explanation, get fresh air and seek medical help. If your CO alarm goes off, head for fresh air and call 911.