Winter Activity Safety Hazards


Regardless of when temperatures drop well-below freezing and roads are coated with sheets of ice, people insist on going outside to carry out their daily activities. Meanwhile, many are unaware of the several outdoor safety hazards we are exposed to during the chilly season.  Using the safety tips below, learn how you can avoid the seasonal safety hazards and stay safe during this winter’s outdoor activities.


Snow Shoveling Safety: After the first snowstorm of the season, there’s nothing worse than the initial moment when you realize just how much snow is blocking the driveway.  As if the dreadful act of shoveling snow weren’t bad enough, the chore comes with several health risks and safety hazards to be aware of.

Physical Injuries:  Not surprisingly, the lower back is the most commonly injured body part during snow removal activities.  It is important to pay attention to your body by watching out for localized pain that becomes worse with movement or bending over.  Also, be sure to use proper lifting techniques and snow removal equipment.  And lastly, to avoid injury caused by slipping and falling, work slowly and sprinkle cat litter or sand along the walking path.

Health Risks: In 2011, medical researchers stated that cardiac-related injuries accounted for 100% of the more than 1,600 shoveling fatalities in the United States during a 16 year study. These staggering statistics are a reminder that anybody who has had a cardiac stent or a history of cardiovascular disease should not shovel snow. Even the average person that does not exercise regularly should be sure to take frequent breaks and monitor their breathing.

winter activity cartoonSnow Sledding Safety:  Sledding is one of the great joys of winter passed down from generation to generation, along with the hot cocoa and cozy fire that comes afterward. Though it may seem like harmless fun, more than 20,000 children are treated for sledding-related injuries each year. Talk to your daredevil about the steps to consider before hitting the slopes.  To start, teach your child how to find the right hill, by making sure the slope and the space at the bottom is free of trees, parking lots, roads and other obstacles.

Accounting for 34% of all sledding injuries, the head was the most commonly injured body part in sledding collisions.  With this in mind, consider having your child wear a helmet that fits properly and will keep them warm. In addition, teach your child to take turns going down the hill one at a time, to always sit face-forward on their sled, and to walk up the side when their turn has finished to allow space for the sledders next in line.  Should your child ever find themselves on a sled that won’t stop, teach them to look over their shoulder for open space, then to roll off to the side.  Lastly, be sure to designate an adult for the children to go to should one of them need assistance or first aid.

Winter-Appropriate Attire: If you enjoy an afternoon of frolicking in the winter wonderland, then making sure to cover every inch of your skin is not something to be ignored.  With some areas of the United States reaching record-breaking lows of -15ºF, any skin that remains exposed to the air is in danger of being frostbitten within a half hour or less!

However, while packing on the layers is crucial, it is also important to be weary of sweat build-up, especially for our determined shovelers out there.  Clothes drenched in sweat can cause dangerous drops in body temperature, which is why wearing moisture-wicking long underwear (such as wool or synthetic polyesters) is highly suggested over cotton. And finally, if you plan to accompany your children on a snow sledding adventure, avoid wearing scarves or any clothing that can get caught in a sled and pose a risk of strangulation.

Recognize the Symptoms

freezing-cold-person-cartoonHypothermia:  It’s very important to know and be able to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia, a very serious medical condition brought on when the body reaches dangerously low temperatures (below 95 °F). Seek immediate medical treatment if you or someone you’re with begins experiencing signs of confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, and severe shivering.

Frostbite: Frostbite is damage to the skin and underlying tissues caused by exposure to temperatures below the freezing point of skin. While everyone is susceptible to frostbite, the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes are most commonly affected areas. You should seek immediate medical treatment if you or someone you’re with begins experiencing symptoms such as burning, numbness, tingling, itching, or cold sensations.  More severe signs of frostbite include swelling and blood-filled blisters noted over gray, white or yellowed waxy skin.

While I hope that the extreme cold snap sweeping our nation will soon subside for the sake of everyone’s comfort, safety and sanity, there is no escaping the long road of cold temperatures we have to look forward to this season. Make sure you know how to keep you and your family warm and safe during your winter activities using these simple tips.