Proper Planning Can Keep You Safe This Winter

January 11, 2012

It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean you – and your kids – need to stay inside. There are plenty of fun winter activities that will get you moving, such as sledding, skating, snowshoeing, skiing and more. All of these activities are good exercise.

But before heading outside, please keep these safety rules in mind:

Dress for the weather: Parents often wonder how many layers their children should wear. A good rule of thumb is to add one more layer than what you would normally wear. Children’s bodies don’t retain heat as easily as adults. Make sure everyone is wearing warm boots, a warm coat, gloves and a hat over their regular clothes. Add snow pants, long underwear or additional layers as needed. If you or your child can’t stop shivering or have extremities that go numb, head indoors right away to warm up.

Wear property safety gear: Depending on your sport, wearing the right equipment is essential. If you’re skiing (and probably sledding too), make sure you are wearing a helmet. Goggles are also a good idea when you’re hitting the slopes to help protect your eyes. While we’re talking about equipment, make sure whatever you or your child uses is the right size.

Check your surroundings: It’s harder to control our movements when we’re sliding down a hill on a sled or gliding across the ice so it’s essential to keep an eye on your surroundings. Is the ice secure and solid? Are there any trees or other barriers that you might run into when heading down the hill?

Snowmobile safety: I didn’t address snowmobiling above and want to draw extra attention to this popular winter activity. On average, about 20 people die each year in Wisconsin in snowmobile accidents. To avoid becoming a statistic, keep the following safety rules in mind:

  • Don’t drink and drive. Drinking alcohol before snowmobiling or during your ride slows your reactions and impairs your judgment. Wait to have a drink until you arrive safely at your destination.
  • Slow down: Most fatal snowmobile accidents have some link to speed. Drive at a moderate speed (going too fast makes it harder to react to dangerous situations) and drive defensively.
  • Take care when driving across bodies of water. Make sure the ice is thick enough on any rivers or lakes you ride across. Remember that snow can cover open water.
  • Be prepared: Carry a first aid kit that includes a flashlight; dress appropriately (including a helmet, goggles and water repellant clothing); and carry a cell phone in case your snowmobile breaks down or you have any other problems. Try to travel with someone else. If you have to go alone, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Stay on marked trails: Always be alert for fences, rocks, tree stumps or other items that may be concealed by snow.

By keeping all of these precautions in mind, you’ll have a fun and safe time outdoors this winter.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.