It’s winter in Wisconsin, so you know what that means: snow, snow and more snow. With that snow comes all sorts of fun — but potentially dangerous — activities. Sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowmobiling are the obvious ones. Each winter, more than 24,000 children are injured in sledding accidents, with about 3,000 of these resulting in a serious brain injury. But even just playing outside with the cold air and slippery ground has its risks.
No one expects you to keep your kids locked up in the house all winter, but there are a few safety tips you should keep in mind before sending your kids out into the Wisconsin’s winter wonderland.
A good rule of thumb for any season is to always supervise your child while he or she is partaking in a high-risk activity. For activities that require more skill and practice — skiing, snowboarding — I’d recommend signing your child up for lessons from a professional instructor.
Make sure your kids use the proper gear — particularly helmets — when they are skiing, snowboarding or sledding. Investing in a properly fitted winter helmet ensures you have one available for all winter activities. As an added bonus, winter helmets are warm! All safety gear should fit properly and be well-maintained. Goggles for eye protection, as well as wrist guards and kneepads are helpful.
The best way to prevent hypothermia or frostbite is to dress your kids in multiple layers of warm clothing and have them come inside periodically to warm up. Also, be sure to secure loose articles of clothing like scarves so they don’t get caught or tangled in equipment and machinery. Color is important, too. Brightly colored or reflective clothing (or stickers) offer maximum visibility, which protects from potential collisions.
It is easy to overlook sunscreen when it’s cold, but it is just as important to protect your kids’ skin in the winter when glare from the snow makes sun damage more likely. Be sure to apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to any exposed skin before heading outside. As always, don’t forget lip balm with sunblock, too.
Compared to adults, children are at increased risk of dehydration — and yes, it can and does happen even in cold temperatures.
We all know winter weather conditions can change rapidly. Keep an extra set of dry clothing on hand and always keep an eye on the weather forecast.
When injuries happen
Now, even if every safety precaution is taken, falls and injuries do happen. And when they do, they may require an X-ray.
Getting an X-ray
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has one of the nation’s leading radiology programs for children. We participate in the Image Gently campaign, which means we are committed to utilizing the lowest radiation exposure levels while maintaining high image quality.
We use equipment adjusted specially for children and catalog every exam to track your child’s radiation exposure over time. Our goal is to make sure each child receives the right exam with the lowest dose.
If your child needs an imaging exam, here are four questions you may ask your doctor:
- Are the radiologist and radiology tech specially trained to perform and interpret imaging tests for children?
- What steps do you take to reduce radiation exposure to my child?
- Do the technologists know the best way to work with kids to get the best images?
- If sedation is needed, is the physician supervising the sedation credentialed to do so?
Caring for a broken bone
If a fracture is confirmed, it’s important to understand that children’s bones are more flexible than adult bones, so when they break, the fracture patterns aren’t the same. A pediatric orthopedic specialist has the advanced training and expertise to provide the care and treatment kids need.
The correct treatment for children is initiated by location and type of break. Some breaks will heal well with limited care, but others will need surgery to heal correctly. Children are still growing, so special care also needs to be taken to make sure growth plates aren’t damaged. Growth plates are the parts of bones that make you grow taller, so an injured growth plate could lead to real problems.
Resources for parents
If your child is injured, please know the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin team is here for you and your family. We will make sure your child gets the best and safest care. You can also use our online symptom checker or download the free Children’s on Call mobile app to help you make an informed decision.
The Imaging Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is one of the nation’s leading programs for children. Our radiologists have special training to care for infants, children and teens.
Learn more about David Gregg, MD.