Break Point!

Volume 3, Issue 2 View the Archives February, 2000
Break Point's Big Winter Sports Issue
Don't Be on Thin Ice This Winter
Sledding is Not Just Child's Play
Snowmobiles-High Speed Danger Zone
Gliding Down the Hills Safely
Hot Liquids Burn Like Fire
Boost 'em Before You Buckle 'em
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Break Point's Big Winter Sports Issue

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

Now that the snow has finally arrived, children will be out sledding or snowboarding down their favorite hills. The ponds in the rural areas will be filled with skaters and the open areas will have snowmobiles whizzing past.

This issue of Break Point will cover the popular winter sports and provide ways to stay safe. As with any sport, preparation and common sense will help to keep the activity fun and prevent injuries. This issue of Break Point will also cover scald burns in conjunction with Burn Awareness Week, February 6-12, 2000. Scald injuries are the number one cause of burn injuries and deaths to children under 4.

 Most parents believe they buckle their kids in correctly, but surprisingly, most times they are wrong. During National Child Passenger Safety Week 2000, February 13-19, 2000, we are reminding parents to "Boost 'Em Before you Buckle 'Em."

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Don't Be on Thin Ice This Winter

Professional skaters make skating look so simple. Anyone who has worn a pair of skates knows it isn't as simple as it looks. It takes a lot of work and practice just to stay upright. Most of the wintertime skaters are those who skate a couple of months in the winter and then put the skates away until next year. There are several steps to be taken to make sure you are up for the challenge and reduce your chance for injury:

  • Check the skates you will be using to make sure they fit well. Ice skates that are too loose can make it difficult to keep your balance and will not fully support your ankles. Skates that are too tight interfere with circulation.
  • Make sure the blades are clean and sharpened. Sharpened blades glide through the ice better than dull, rusted blades.
  • Be sure to dress appropriately. Ice rinks can provide helmets, especially if you are a beginner and some even have helmet requirements for young children. Mittens or gloves should be worn to protect the hands from the cold and cuts.

If you are skating on a frozen lake or pond additional safety measures need to be taken:

  • Do not skate unless the ice has a uniform thickness of at least 4 inches. If you are unsure of the ice do not skate.
  • Have rescue devices, such as a rope, ladder and blankets handy.
  • Do not skate alone.
  • Observe all signs and park procedures prior to skating.

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Sledding is Not Just Child's Play

The snow is finally here! Children have been waiting for months to get their sleds out especially the ones who received sleds for Christmas.

No doubt sledding is a fun activity for children and adults if proper safety measures are taken. Fifteen percent of serious head injuries that occur among children playing winter sports are related to inner tubes, sleds, toboggans or snow disks. Other less serious injuries, include fractures, are even more common.

Things to look for in a safe sled should include:

Secure handholds and easy steering. No protruding rivets or sharp edges. No split or splintered wood. No bent metal parts and bumper or guard over the metal front bar. Sled runners that curve around to the top and connect with the side rails. Sharp runners that are free of rust. When sledding the following rules should be observed: Look over the area where you will be sledding. Remove any debris from the slope, and note the locations of any bumps. Teach children not to roughhouse, push or shove others. Before starting down a slope, make sure the person sledding before you has cleared the path to avoid crashes. When you reach the bottom of the hill, quickly move out of the way of other sleds. Parents or a responsible adult must supervise children. Do not sled on slopes that end in a street, drop off, parking lot or water. Don't use alcohol before or during sledding. 

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Snowmobiles-High Speed Danger Zone

Snowmobiles are a popular mode of transportation in many rural areas. It is also a fun winter sport that has retained its popularity over the years. Yet, snowmobiles are high-powered machines with the potential to injure or kill.

Each year we read about snowmobile riders killed by reckless use of their craft. This is the number one risk factor for injury with this sport. Other risk factors include: alcohol use, excessive speed, suboptimal lighting, drowning and lack of protection of head and limbs. Most common injuries are caused from falls off the machine and collisions with stationary objects.

Keep these safety factors in mind when riding:

  • Generally, it is unlawful to drive or operate a snowmobile on Illinois roadways, contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at (217) 782-6431 for complete rules regarding designated snowmobile routes.
  • Ride sober! A high percentage of snowmobile fatalities and injuries result from irresponsible use of alcohol. Do not drink and drive. Do not let anyone in the group drink and drive. Individuals suspected of operating snowmobiles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs would be required to undergo blood testing. The law is similar to those covering automobile and watercraft operation. An individual convicted of operating a snowmobile while under the influence can face a jail term, fine or suspension of his or her driving privileges.
  • Be cautious when traveling over bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness or water currents. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Ice should be at least 8 inches thick. It is best however, to avoid snowmobiling on waterways altogether.
  • Dress appropriately for winter and the sport. Wear a certified helmet with face protection at all times. Scarves are not recommended because they may get caught in the machinery.
  • Be prepared for changing weather. Know the weather forecast and call ahead to check on the current conditions of the trails you will be traveling
  • Ride defensively- Expect the unexpected from the other snowmobile drivers. Be prepared to respond to and avoid dangerous situations.
  • Never travel alone. Most snowmobile incidents result in injury. The most dangerous situations occur when a person is injured and alone.

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Gliding Down the Hills Safely

Skiing and snowboarding are the area's most popular sports. Each year the numbers of snowboarders increase. As with any sport safety should come first. Excess speed and loss of control are the primary factors associated with snow skiing fatalities according to a study reported in the physician and Sports Medicine, February 1989. Most of the reported injuries occurred after collisions with a stationary object such as trees or lift towers. Head and neck injuries are cited as the main cause of the fatalities. The National Safety Council strongly urges the novice and experienced skier and snowboarder to learn or reacquaint themselves with the proper skills and safety techniques, which include:

  • Prepare for the winter season- skiers and snowboarders should be doing aerobic exercises to get into shape for the slopes. If you are in good overall condition you will not fatigue as quickly and will be at less risk for injury.
  • Beginners or skiers who have not been on skis for awhile should take lessons from a ski or snowboard instructor to learn proper techniques and minimize injury. Learn how to properly fit boots and bindings and the proper way to break a fall.
  • Never ski alone.
  • Give skiers or snowboarders the right of way.
  • Stop on the side of the run and not in the middle. Stay out of the way of others coming down behind you.
  • Wear brightly colored clothing so other skiers can spot you easily.
  • Before passing another skier or snowboarder, shout, "On your left" or "On your right".
  • Only ski or snowboard on an approved course. These trails are specially groomed for the sport.
  • On a lift or tow, carry your poles by the shafts.
  • If you fall getting off a lift or tow, get out of the way of other skiers exiting behind you as soon as possible.
  • Skiers and snowboarders are encouraged to wear helmets. Snowboarders are encouraged to wear wrist supports.
  • Do not drink and ski or snowboard. Save the alcohol for the end of the activities and you are safely in the lodge with no plans to drive.

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Hot Liquids Burn Like Fire

Nationwide, nearly 24,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments every year for scald injuries according to the American Burn Association. Scalds are the number one cause of burn injury to children under four years of age.

Although scald injuries can happen to anyone, the highest risk groups for scald burns are children under 5 and persons over 65. Most of the scald injuries occur when parents or caregivers are in a hurry, angry or under a lot of pressure. Scald injuries are 100 percent preventable.

The American Burn Association recommends these simple safety tips to decrease the scald injuries to you and those you love:

  • Set home water heaters no higher than 120 degrees. The safest temperature for bathing is 100 degrees.
  • Provide constant adult supervision for young children, anyone who may experience difficulty removing themselves from the hot water on their own, or people who may not recognize the dangers associated with turning on the hot water.
  • Turn the cold water faucet on first and then add hot water to achieve a comfortable temperature.
  • In the cooking area, establish a "kid free" zone, at least 3 feet from the stove while cooking.
  • Cook on back burners when young children are present. Keep all pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge.
  • Have sturdy oven mitts close to the cooking area. Use oven mitts to protect hands and wrists when taking lids off of pots.
  • Place microwaves at a safe height, within easy reach to prevent spills.
  • Use containers designed for microwave use.
  • Let microwave cooked foods cool slightly before removing the cover.
  • Around the home- never drink or carry hot liquids while holding or carrying a child. Quick movements (reaching and grabbing) may cause the hot liquid to spill, burning the child or adult.
  • Keep hot liquids up high, out of the reach of children, not on low coffee or end tables.

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Boost 'em Before You Buckle 'em

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death to kids. One reason is that most kids ride unbuckled or improperly restrained. Even the most safety-conscious parents often are not aware of the need for booster seats or the danger their children face when improperly restrained in adult seat belts.

With so many types of child safety seats and seat belt systems, it's hard to be sure child safety seats are in right. One common mistake is that parents often believe that once their children outgrow their forward-facing child safety seats, an adult seat belt is good enough. A child, who cannot sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion, with knees bent over a vehicle's seat edge without slouching, must use a booster seat.

The reality is that all children between about 40 to 80lbs. And less than 4'9" tall should be in a booster seat. Adult seat belts can be dangerous when used alone if the child is too small.

The shoulder belt cuts across their necks and the lap belt rides up into their soft bellies. In a crash, this can cause serious or even fatal injuries. And many child passenger safety laws ignore children this age and size, giving parents a false sense of security.

For these children, booster seats are critical. Child safety seats-including boosters-are very effective in protecting children in crashes. A booster seat positions the adult-designed seat belt correctly and safely- and offers children greater comfort and visibility.

All children age 12 and under should sit properly restrained in the back seat. So when your kids outgrow forward-facing child safety seats, boost 'em before you buckle 'em. Get all your child safety seats inspected by a certified technician in your area. Click on or call 1-888-327-4236 for more information or to locate a trained and certified child passenger seat technician near you.

If you have any questions about child safety seats, call the Injury Prevention office to speak to a certified technician. Call 708-327-2455 for more information.

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • National Poison Prevention Week - 3/19-3/25
  • Workplace Eve Health and Safety Month

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