Pediatrics Department Offers Winter Safety Advice

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LIVINGSTON – Walking through the park after a snowfall, ice skating, sledding or skiing are just a few of the activities many people enjoy participating in during the winter months. But as fun as these activities can be, they can also be very dangerous.

Last winter, the Pediatric Emergency Care Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center saw more winter-related accidents than in previous years, with approximately 10 percent of cases involving problems with hypothermia, sledding and skiing.

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“Since the majority of accidents affect children under 12 years of age, parental supervision is very important. Preventable accidents are one of the biggest causes of significant childhood injuries but by following some simple winter precautions, the winter season can be fun, safe and exiting,” explains Christopher F. Freer, DO, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Although not as obvious, children and infants can become dehydrated with winter activities. Sweating from wearing heavy clothes and losing fluids due to rapid breathing during vigorous activities outside can cause dehydration. Dr. Freer reminds parents to insist that their children take frequent water breaks.

In addition, the Pediatric Emergency Department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center offers the following recommendations regarding several common winter dangers to not only make winter a wonderful time of year, but also a safe time too.

Hypothermia

There is a concern about hypothermia, when a person’s body temperature falls significantly below 98.6 degrees F. This can be a life-threatening event. The younger the child, the more prone he or she is to hypothermia. Adults have developed physiological protective mechanisms, such as shivering or automatically decreasing the blood supply to parts of the body closest to the cold environment. In children, these mechanisms have not fully matured and the body temperature can quickly decrease. If the body temperature goes below 94 degrees F, it can affect the function of a child’s heart and lungs. To protect your child:

  • limit his or her exposure to freezing temperatures, especially infants less than three months of age.
  • dress older children in layered clothing as this helps to insulate the body.
  • wet children should be brought inside immediately and dried off. Water and wind can dramatically increase the loss of body heat.

Sledding

Sledding can be great fun, especially when done safely. Sledding should only be done under adult supervision and in pre-designated areas. Dr. Freer also recommends that parents remind their children to:

  • wear a helmet to help significantly decreases head injuries.
  • avoid collisions with other and always be aware of obstacles, such as trees and fences.
  • never wear loose clothing or allow tie strings to dangle. These can get caught under the sled or wrapped around another person and act like a noose if the sled tips over or the child is thrown from the sled.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing has become a national pastime, and having the correct equipment and instruction is crucial to an enjoyable and safe time. To avoid severe injuries and deaths caused by head trauma, all skiers should wear a helmet.

Ice Skating

Whether your child prefers playing ice hockey or figure skating, be sure the ice is safe and approved for skating. Dr. Freer cautions that he has treated children and adults for facial lacerations and head injuries from being unsteady and loosing their balance on the ice. To prevent injuries, be sure your child has the proper equipment and always wears a helmet.


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