Winter opens a whole new world of fun for kids, especially in Michigan, where just about every cold-weather activity imaginable is a short drive away.
Skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, snowmobiling, sledding and hockey are all popular options, but they can present challenges for parents.
While the kids concentrate on having a good time, mom and dad have to focus on safety.
Emily Durkin, MD, pediatric trauma surgeon for Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, offers helpful tips for protecting children during outdoor activities.
There are two critical areas of focus: preparing for the environment and preventing injury.
Ready for the outdoors?
Michigan’s cold winters merit this top tip: Prepare for the weather and dress appropriately. Even when you pick a nice day to play outdoors, snowsuits and boots may be in order.
“It’s important to make sure children stay dry while outside,” Dr. Durkin said. “One of the biggest factors for hypothermia is wet clothes. Make sure kids are taking breaks and changing wet clothing into dry. Even simple perspiration can cause clothing to become wet.”
Parents should monitor their children when they’re playing. Fingers, toes and noses are most prone to frostbite, so if a child complains about pain in one of these areas, it’s time to take a break and head indoors, she said.
Always err on the side of caution—make sure your kids stay warm and hydrated.
Keep an eye on them
Kids of all ages should be supervised closely, Dr. Durkin said. One of the best ways to keep tabs? Head outdoors to watch them—or better yet, play along with them.
Parents should ensure children are playing safely together, in a safe area.
“Particularly if they’re in an unfamiliar area,” she said.
A helmet is one of the most important pieces of equipment when participating in winter sports, especially sports involving speed, such as skiing, snowboarding, hockey and snowmobiling, Dr. Durkin said.
But a helmet isn’t a bad idea even when ice skating or hiking, because it offers some protection in case of slips and falls. It’s also advisable when kids go sledding.
“Protective gear, helmets and dressing for the weather are crucial for safe winter activities for kids,” she said.
Also, if your kids aren’t feeling well, you shouldn’t let them head outside.
“The cold weather can make cold and flu symptoms worse,” she said.
And make sure you take along proper first-aid equipment, in the event of an emergency.
“Certainly, if they’re participating in a sport a long way away from home—such as skiing and snowmobiling—taking a medical first-aid kit makes a lot of sense,” Dr. Durkin said.