Advice on keeping kids safe this winter

Advice on keeping kids safe this winter

Neeraja Kairam, MD, left, and Michael E. Silverman, MD
Neeraja Kairam, MD, left, and Michael E. Silverman, MD

The winter season brings lots of fun, but there are also a whole host of dangers that parents need to be aware of to keep kids safe.

From frigid temperatures to hazards on the slopes, Michael E. Silverman, MD, vice chair and director of Operations Emergency Department, and Neeraja Kairam, MD, director of the Pediatric Emergency Department, Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center offer some advice on how to keep the kids safe this winter.

What are some of the most common injuries you see this season and what can parents do to prevent them?

When we move to outdoor activities, trauma from sledding continues to be a common occurrence. Avoid sledding in areas that are congested which increases risks for extremity fractures in addition to head injuries.

Avoiding hypothermia also becomes an important issue when children are playing outside and are allowed to stay in wet clothes for extended periods, or when they don’t have enough layers on.

Beyond wearing protective headgear when skiing, snowboarding, sledding,
and tubing, what other safety tips can you share?

It is essential to keep an adequate distance from other sledders or skiers. Avoid sledding, tubing, and skiing near hazards such as trees and rocks. Get adequate training for children when learning to ski. Appropriate clothing and up-to-date, well-maintained gear can decrease the risk of injuries.

What about outdoor play in cold temperatures? How long is
too long and how can we best keep our kids safe and protected?

Weather that is below freezing increases the risk of hypothermia and other cold weather illnesses, so kids should avoid outdoor activity when temperatures are below 150 F. Between 15 and 30 degrees, child checks or preferably, breaks should be done every 20 minutes. Breaks should be inside where children can warm up and extremities should be checked: Finger, toes, noses, and ears should be especially checked and kept covered while outside. Layers are important. Remove wet clothes and replace them with dry ones during breaks.

What other advice can you offer for a happy and safe winter?

Even with the increase in COVID cases, it is still important for both physical and mental well-being that children play outside to get exercise and fresh air. Encourage safe outdoor socialization. For children it is an important part of good mental health.