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Snow day safety

Keep wintertime fun and injury-free

Photo: FatCamera/iStockphoto

Safe sledding

Heading for a sled or toboggan hill? The National Safety Council offers tips:

  • Make sure all equipment is free of sharp edges and cracks, and that sledders are wearing helmets.
  • Sled on spacious, gently sloping hills with a level runoff at the bottom to allow for safe speeds and stopping.
  • Check sledding areas for bare spots, holes and obstructions such as rocks and trees.
  • Don’t sled on or near frozen bodies of water.
  • When riding, sit or lay on your back on top of the sled with your feet pointing downhill. Never sled headfirst.

Adults should supervise sledding groups, making sure sledders take turns if a hill or area becomes crowded.

Safe skating

Some cities and park districts set up outdoor skate rinks in the winter, and take steps to make sure they’re safe. But if you’re thinking about heading to a local pond or lake, you may want to reconsider. Fluctuations in wintertime temperatures can make activities on frozen bodies of water a precarious proposition. Where one area of ice might be thick enough to support weight, another patch nearby might be much thinner.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises skating only on approved surfaces. Look for signs posted by local police or recreation departments, or contact police or park authorities to confirm which areas are safe for skating. Once you’re on the ice, the AAP recommends:

  • Skating in the same direction as others.
  • Refraining from darting across the ice.
  • Skating in a group, not alone.
  • Avoiding chewing gum or eating. “It’s good to minimize the distractions that may be going on while skating,” Jordan said. “Those tend to lead to more on-ice collisions and falls.”

Jordan also stresses the importance of being honest about your ability and physical condition before skating – especially for adults. When was the last time you skated? Is your strength and balance not what it used to be? If skates or other equipment are being provided, how do they compare with what you’re used to?

Jordan recommends wearing a helmet and gloves while skating, and considering sunglasses if you’ll be skating outdoors on a bright day.

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