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5 sledding safety tips

Kids in the Dayton region have thoroughly enjoyed the many snow days Mother Nature has brought their way this year. When the conditions have been favorable, many of these kids have bundled up to head outside for their favorite winter activity — sledding.

As with every physical activity, there comes risk of injury. While, to most, sledding is harmless fun, there can be very serious dangers around every corner. In December 2013, Dayton Children’s saw 17 injuries related to sledding and snowboarding. Many of these were very severe including head injuries, femur and spine fractures and many others. It is important for parents to talk to their kids about how to stay safe before sending them out into the winter wonderland.

“Many kids, especially teenagers are into extreme sledding and take unnecessary risks,” says Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children’s. “Nationwide, sledding injuries send tens of thousands of kids to hospital emergency rooms each year. More than half of these injuries are head injuries, which can be very serious.”

Here are five tips to follow when it comes to taking your kids sledding this winter:

1. Avoid hillsides that end near a street, parking lot, ponds, trees, fences or other hazards.

2. Make sure the hill is free of obstacles such as jumps, bumps, rocks or trees before your kids begin sledding.

3. Choose hills that are snowy rather than icy. If a child falls off a sled, icy slopes make for hard landings.

4. Always try to have your kids sled during the daytime, when visibility is better. If they do go sledding at night, make sure the hillside is well lit and all potential hazards are visible.

5. Kids should wear sensible winter clothing (hats, gloves or mittens, snow pants, winter jacket and snow boots) that is waterproof and warm, and change into something dry if their clothes get wet.

6. Don’t let kids wear scarves or any clothing that can get caught in a sled and pose a risk of strangulation.

7. Make your kids wear helmets, particularly if they’re 12 or under. Helmets designed for winter sports work best, but if you don’t have one, make sure they at least wear a bike helmet or something similar.

Parents should also remember to look for signs of frostbite and hypothermia when their kids are spending time outside, especially with the subzero temperatures our region has been experiencing this winter. Make sure kids take breaks throughout the day to come inside to thaw out, change their gloves and maybe even have a cup of hot chocolate.

By taking time to dress children properly and by following the tips above, you will lower the risk of a child getting hurt. Sledding is made to be fun and by keeping your kids safe, you will make sure that it is.

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