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How to prevent injuries this winter

Here are some tips to help you and your family stay safe this winter.

Winter weather outlooks predict snow and chilly temperatures on the horizon, creating an atmosphere for festive family fun, and also presenting the potential risk for winter weather injury. Accidental slips and falls are certainly common due to icy conditions; however, there are many other injuries seen in the emergency room during cold months that can be avoided with preparation and extra caution.

Before your family breaks out the sleds, boots and hats for the cold weather ahead, be sure to take the time to practice (and discuss!) the following safety precautions with your children to keep your family safe this winter.

Focus on fire safety.

The winter is a peak time for house fires due to heating malfunctions, improper heat sources for the home and use of candles. Take the time to test the smoke alarms in your home, and also install carbon monoxide detectors as carbon monoxide is a deadly odorless, colorless, and tasteless hazard harming many in the winter. In addition, please be sure to practice the following:

  1. Don't use your oven to heat your home – not only can it cause fire, but also carbon monoxide poisoning.

  2. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that could burn, and turn them off when leaving the room or sleeping.

  3. Do not leave children unattended with candles or flame.

  4. Teach your children what to do in case of an emergency.

Be cautious of hot liquids.

Many people warm up in the winter season by cooking soups on the stove, and preparing seasonal drinks like hot chocolate, tea, or apple cider. It's important to be cautious of both serving and preparing these items, as they can cause scald burns that can be very serious.  Be sure drinks and soups cool down before serving, and supervise young children while they are consuming. Also, a reminder for cooking on stovetop – be sure to keep the pot handles out of reach. And, never leave the pots unattended.

Bundle up in layers.

Children are more susceptible to hypothermia or frostbite in colder months. Children have a larger body surface area compared to their weight than adults, causing children to lose heat faster. When your kids head outside, make sure they are dressed in warm, thin layers of clothing. Don't forget proper footwear such as boots with thick socks, and be sure your kids start packing their hats and gloves before heading to school. For older babies and younger children, a general rule of thumb is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than you would wear yourself.

When your kids are outside, be mindful of the symptoms of frostbite, which can very often be seen on extremities like fingers, toes, ears or the nose. Listen to your children when they complain that their skin burns or feels numb, and look for signs of pale, gray and blistered skin. If frostbite occurs, place frostbitten parts of the child's body in warm, not hot, water. After a few minutes, cover the child with clothing and blankets and give him or her something warm to drink.

Practice snow and winter sport safety.

Before your kids go outside in the snow or enjoy cold weather activities, take the time to discuss general safety.

  1. Remind your children of the tremendous dangers of trying to walk on the ice of lakes. Check for signs posted by police or recreation departments to see which areas have been approved.

  2. Identify safe hills for sledding that are free of obstructions like trees and fences, as well as roads and cars.

  3. Remind your children to wear a helmet when playing winter sports with friends to help prevent concussion.

In addition, set reasonable time limits on outdoor play to prevent hypothermia and frostbite, and only allow children to participate in these activities during daylight hours to avoid poor visibility and lower temperatures.

Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics for additional safety advice and tips to keep your children healthy this winter.

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