Nothing says winter quite like a pile of snow, a child all bundled up, and a sled. Unfortunately, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that there are about 46,000 sledding injuries that are seen in emergency rooms each year, most of which include children under the age of 15 who suffer a head injury. Thankfully, there are some simple tips that you can follow to help avoid an emergency room visit this winter.
- Wear a helmet – We have kids wear helmets while biking and skiing, so it makes sense to also have them wear one while sledding. Wearing a helmet will help prevent head injuries in the unfortunate event of an accident while sledding.
- Always sled sitting up – Adults should instruct children to sled sitting up and with their feet facing forward. This will allow the child to see where they are going and be more in control of the sled while going downhill.
- Choose a safe location – Choose a hill that is appropriate for the children who are doing the sledding. It should be free of obstacles such as trees, open water, and roads. Make sure that the hill mn’t too steep or large for the children who are participating.
- Make sure the sled is safe to use – The sled should have no cracks or other signs of wear and should have handles that children can hold.
- Never ride on a sled pulled by a car or snowmobile – Teach children to never ride on a sled that is being pulled by a car or snowmobile, as the injuries that can be sustained by doing so can be severe and even fatal.
- Dress in layers – It’s important to dress for the weather. Staying warm is an essential part of participating in outdoor winter activities, and you should have your child dress in layers so that they may be taken off and added back on as necessary. If you are sledding in a highly populated area, it is wise to also dress children in bright colors so that they are visible at all times.
- Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite – Be vigilant about checking on kids for weather related illnesses. Children don’t always recognize that they are getting too cold or thattheir skin is too exposed for the conditions outside, so it’s your job to make sure that they are well protected.
- Be aware of the weather – Be aware of the air temperature outside, as well as the wind-chill factor, and set time limits based on this information.
- Make sure an adult is present when sledding – Always have an adult present while sledding. They can help children make good decisions about sledding and be there (with a cell phone) in case of an emergency.
- Instruct children how to safely sled – If they fall off the sled while sledding, instruct them to roll to the side and get out of the way of the led. If they find themselves on an out-of-control sled, they should roll off to the side to safety. Children should observe the hill before beginning their descent to make sure that the path is free of any obstacles, including other children who are sledding.
Sledding is often part of fond memories of childhood and winter days. Safe sledding will ensure that those days are filled with hours of fun and not hours spent in the local hospital emergency room.