TOMS RIVER, New Jersey – Walking through the park after a snowfall, ice skating, sledding or skiing are just a few of the activities many people enjoy participating in during the winter months. But as fun as these activities can be, they can also be very dangerous.
“Since the majority of accidents affect children under 12 years of age, parental supervision is very important. Preventable accidents are one of the biggest causes of significant childhood injuries but by following some simple winter precautions, the winter season can be fun, safe and exiting,” explains Laurence Desrochers, MD, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Community Medical Center.
The Emergency Department at Community Medical Center offers the following recommendations to not only make winter a wonderful time of year, but also a safe time too.
There is a concern about hypothermia, when a person’s body temperature falls significantly below 98.6 degrees F. This can be a life-threatening event. The younger the child, the more prone he or she is to hypothermia. Adults have developed physiological protective mechanisms, such as shivering or automatically decreasing the blood supply to parts of the body closest to the cold environment. In children, these mechanisms have not fully matured and the body temperature can quickly decrease. If the body temperature goes below 95 degrees F, it can affect the function of a child’s heart and lungs. A simple means of protecting your child from hypothermia is to limit his or her exposure to freezing temperatures, especially infants less than 12 months of age. Older children should dress in layered clothing as this helps to insulate the body. If a child becomes wet, he or she should be brought inside immediately and dried off. Water and wind can dramatically increase the loss of body heat.
Frostbite, the actual freezing of the cells of the body in severe cases, is another winter concern. Frostbite initially presents with a painful cold feeling followed by numbness. This condition can be mild, moderate or severe and may lead to permanent damage. The toes, fingers, nose and ears are especially prone to frostbite because they are directly exposed to the cold environment and have poor heat-generating ability. These areas, when subjected to cold, have a decreased blood supply which furthers the risk of cell damage. To avoid frostbite, parents should monitor their child’s time outside. Remember, the time one is exposed to low temperatures, high wind velocity and a wet environment are all factors that contribute to the development of frostbite.
Sledding can be great fun, especially when done safely. Wearing a helmet not only significantly decreases head injuries but also has become fashionable. Children on sleds should never wear loose clothing or have tie strings dangling. These can get caught under the sled or wrapped around another person and act like a noose if the sled tips over or the child is thrown from the sled. Sledding should only be done under adult supervision and in pre-designated areas.
Skiing has become a national pastime, and having the correct equipment and instruction is crucial to an enjoyable and safe time. In the past few years, there have been a number of severe injuries and deaths caused by head trauma received in skiing accidents. Wearing a helmet can prevent significant head injuries and even death.
Although not as obvious, children and infants can become dehydrated with winter activities. Sweating from wearing heavy clothes and losing fluids due to rapid breathing during vigorous activities outside can cause dehydration. Parents should insist that their children take frequent water breaks.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent wintertime killer. Heaters in the home should be cleaned and serviced annually. Cars must never be left running in an unventilated area. For greater peace of mind, there are carbon monoxide monitors available for home use.
The Emergency Department offers general treatment areas, as well as areas for the care of cardiac and trauma patients. In addition, it contains a special area for children and eight pediatric treatment rooms called KidCare.
KidCare is a specialized emergency department for children up to age 17 with less severe injuries and illnesses. Pediatricians are available in the Emergency Department 24 hours a day, seven days a week
For more information on Community Medical Center or its emergency services, call 1-888-724-7123 or visit www.barnabashealth.org.
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