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  1. Sled With a Helmet: Doctors
  2. Summer's Here - Stay Cool!

Sled With A Helmet: Doctors

When the sleds come out, the bikes go away. But a physician who checked figures on head injuries resulting from sledding thinks part of the bike equipment should stay.

The helmet.

If America's kids wear helmets when they sled, thousands of head injuries each year could be avoided, said Dr. John R. Tongue of Tualatin, Ore.

" Head injuries from sledding are certainly preventable," said Tongue who studied sled injuries for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Data compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission show that around 7,000 sledders ages 16 and below are taken to hospital emergency rooms each year to be treated for head injuries. "Forty-three percent are brain injuries and a third are serious, so you are talking about a serious problem," Tongue said.

Other types of helmets also could prevent injury, but bike helmets are cheap, commonly available and capable of doing the job, Tongue said. "Bicycle crashes occur at higher speeds than sledding injuries," he said.

The risk probably is greater among younger kids, whose necks are weak and heads are large compared with the rest of their bodies, Tongue said. Besides, the younger kids are newer to sledding and probably are not paying as much attention as they should to such dangers as the sledders behind them, he said.

Although bike helmets weren't created for sledding protection, there are similarities in the types of accidents. Kids are striking something, going forward and tumbling off. Tongue feels sure the helmets would be protective.

Parents would have to make some adjustments in the bike helmets to make them fit right and keep their kids' heads warm, however.

A cloth cap-possibly a tight fleece-could be worn under the helmet to keep body heat from escaping through the helmet's vents, Tongue said.

And the straps might have to be readjusted to be sure the helmet fits properly with a cap inside. If the helmet is too tight, it may be time to buy a new one-but because helmets commonly can be found for $30 or less, that's no big deal, Tongue said.

Most kids don't wear helmets when they sled, however. In a study based at St. Louis Children's Hospital, only tow of 83 patients had worn helmets, Tongues said. But 91 percent of the children had gloves, and 61 percent had waterproof boots, he said.

The idea of using bike helmets when sledding deserves consideration, said Dr. Frederick P. Rivara of Seattle, an expert on bike helmet use. His 1992 study of Seattle-area injuries showed no decreased risk of head injury among children who wore helmets while sledding.

But the study cautioned that there may have been too few children in helmets to make the analysis meaningful. "My guess is that they are probably protective, and there's no way they could be harmful," he said.

The physicians group's national safe-sledding campaign highlights helmet use as well as not going down headfirst, and sledding with adult supervision off streets in areas free of hazards such as rocks and fences.

Tongue also is working with the Pacific Northwest region of the National Forest Service to promote sledding safety, including helmet use. The Agriculture Department agency has ski and sled runs on some of its land.

Ski area operators can make sure the snow play areas they operate are well-groomed and monitored, but in unregulated areas, "the family just dives off the hill, and we can't manage it," said Temple Tait-Ochs, the region's safety manager.

Two managed sled runs are in the Mt. Hood, Ore., area. The ski operation lets sledders use its ski helmets free, said Charlie Wessinger, operator of the Summit ski area.

Only about 5 percent of sledders choose to use the helmets, Wessinger said, "That's a real low, but two years ago, it was zero percent," he said.

This document was posted on January 2, 2000.

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Summer's Here -- Stay Cool!

Pedestrians, cyclists, and runners put themselves at risk in traffic - but also from weather. Summer temperatures can tax the body's ability to manage heat, with potentially deadly results. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can strike anyone who is exercising outdoors in hot weather, so exercise your caution as well as your body.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include clammy, cool skin, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, weak- ness, headache, nausea, cramps, and a weak and rapid pulse.

Heat stroke symptoms include hot, dry skin, an elevated body temperature, confusion, and even unconsciousness or convulsions. The solution for both is to drink a lot of liquids (without caffeine or alcohol) and get into a cooler environment.

The best strategy for dealing with heat is prevention: Don't exercise during the middle of the day, when the sun is highest and air is hottest.

Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercising, and wear loose-fitting, light clothing. If you're planning a day-long bike ride, take a break during the hottest time of day, and make sure you have access to plenty of water, either by traveling near rest stops or by bringing enough with you.

Heatstroke can also affect anyone who's sitting in a closed car on a hot day, but is particularly dangerous for children. Never leave any living thing in your car while you dash into the store "just for a minute." That means not animals, not children, not even a potted plant. On a sunny summer day, the temperature inside a car can rise to over 120 F very quickly - that's plenty hot enough to kill.

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

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