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Cold, ice and snow safety

Bookmark and Share Winter isn't a time to just stay indoors and wait for spring. Sledding and playing in the snow can be fun for the whole family. Once outdoors, however, you may need to take extra steps to keep your family safe in the cold. In ice and snow, accidents can occur easily, and before you know it, you may be on your way to the emergency room. "There are ways to keep safe during the cold months, without confining your family to the house," states Mary Campagnolo, MD, chief of family practice at Virtua Memorial Hospital Burlington County. "By following a few tips, you can have a great time, no matter how much snow piles up outside." Safety advice for winter sports fans
Braving the cold
What to do in an emergency
Safety advice for winter sports fans
Some injuries are more common in the winter because of special cold-weather activities. Snowboarding is drawing more kids out in the cold weather, and emergency rooms are seeing more abdominal, head and neck injuries in those who run into trees or large rocks on the hills. Ice-skating and ice hockey are also great cold-weather activities, but they require safety smarts as well. "Make sure your children avoid sports injuries by wearing supportive and properly fitted gear including helmets, elbow and knee pads, if necessary," suggests Dr. Campagnolo. "If your child will be ice skating or playing ice hockey, suggest that they skate on a rink rather than a pond. If you only have access to a pond, check the thickness of the ice yourself to prevent falls through the ice and supervise your children while they skate." Braving the cold
If you're going outside in the cold, stay safe - and warm. Make sure your kids have a snack before going out. The calories will give their bodies energy in the cold weather. And protect your kids' faces with sunscreen. Even though the idea of sunburn in January can seem odd, snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Kids should dress warmly using layers of clothes. Dress them in long underwear, a turtleneck, sweater, warm socks, boots, a hat and coat. Add more layers depending on the temperature. Waterproof pants and jackets are great top layers because they don't let the wetness seep into the other clothing. If your kids decide to go sledding on their own for the day, make sure you know about the hill where they will be playing. Is it steep or covered with trees? If so, it's not a good location for sledding. Also, watch out for hills where there are rocks or those that are near busy roads. "Sledding injuries can be very serious, resulting in head trauma, neck trauma, and broken bones," states Dr. Campagnolo. "In serious injuries, there often is internal bleeding and abdominal trauma, which is why it's a good idea to supervise when your kids are sledding." What to do in an emergency
Children are at greater risk for frostnip and frostbite than adults are. Dr. Campagnolo advises parents to dress kids warmly and restrict the time they spend outside in extreme weather. Frostnip is an early warning sign of the onset of frostbite. It leaves the skin white and numb. After bringing your child inside, remove all wet clothing because it draws heat from the body. Immerse chilled body parts in warm (not hot) water — 104 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 42 degrees Celsius) — until sensation returns. Frostbite occurs mostly on fingers, toes, ears, noses, and cheeks. The area becomes very cold and turns white or yellowish gray. If you notice frostbite, immediately take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room. For more cold weather tips written just for parents, kids and teens, go to www.virtua.org/kidshealth.