Many of us have fond memories of skating on a frozen pond. Skating outdoors combines fresh air, scenic views, and exercise. But skating on cracked or thin ice can quickly turn a fun outing deadly. Before letting your children out on the ice, look for “No Skating” or other warning signs that would indicate dangerous conditions.
Also, make sure your children’s skates fit properly, provide adequate ankle support, and have the blades professionally sharpened at the beginning of each season. Clothing should be close-fitting, and cover vulnerable areas like knees and elbows.
When playing hockey on the ice, kids need to wear a helmet, mouth guard, gloves, and pads for the shoulders, elbows, knees, and shins. All equipment should be certified by the HECC (Hockey Equipment Certification Council) or the ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials).
When you were a child, your mother probably admonished you to “bundle up!” every time you headed outside into the cold. What you may have seen as nagging was actually good advice. Children are more susceptible than adults to dangerous conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia because their skin loses heat more rapidly.
Before you send your kids outside, follow your mother's advice and bundle your kids up in several layers of clothing. Layering not only keeps kids warm; it allows for easy clothing removal should the temperature rise. Start with polypropylene underwear, which is comfortable and dries quickly. Then add a woolen shirt or sweater and a waterproof, wind-resistant jacket. And don’t forget a hat, scarf, mittens, and waterproof boots. Most of the body’s heat is lost through the head and extremities. If your children get wet while playing in the snow or ice, bring them inside and change them into dry clothes as soon as possible.
You not only have to worry about cold temperatures when you send your kids outside in the winter, but you also need to take into consideration the wind chill—the relationship between temperature and wind speed. “When you combine cold and wind, it takes the effective temperature way down,” explains Paul Kocin, winter weather expert at The Weather Channel. For example, if the temperature were five degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind was blowing at 35 mph, it would feel like minus 21 degrees against your child’s exposed skin. “With combined cold and wind, the ability to get either frostbite or hypothermia goes way up,” he adds.
After just a few minutes outside, the cold and wind can begin to nip at exposed skin. If your child develops a tingling sensation in his nose, fingers, or toes (called frostnip), bring him inside and soak the affected areas in warm water until normal feeling returns. Prolonged cold exposure can lead to the more dangerous frostbite--a freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Frostbitten skin first grows numb, then turns pale and feels hard or rubbery to the touch. Frostbite is serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Also serious is hypothermia, which occurs when body temperature drops to below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If your child displays such warning signs as slurred speech, awkward movements, intense shivering, abnormally slow breathing, and/or unusually pale skin, bring him inside immediately. Remove any wet clothing and keep him warm under blankets. Call 911 or your local emergency number for help.
When your kids head outside, why not take some time to be with them (especially if they’re very young)? They'll love to toss snowballs at you and see Mom romping around! That way, you can make sure they’re not getting too cold, encourage them to warm up indoors with a cup of hot cocoa from time to time, and you’ll get to share in all the fun.