The winter season brings lots of fun, but there are also a whole host of dangers that parents need to be aware of to keep kids safe. From those holiday lights to your next skiing trip, doctors Michael E. Silverman, MD, Vice Chair and Director of Operations Emergency Department, Morristown Medical Center and Neeraja Kairam, MD, Director, Pediatric Emergency Department, Morristown Medical Center have the tips you need to stay out of the Emergency Department and make the most of the season.
NJF: What are some of the most common injuries you see during the holiday season with kids and what can parents do to prevent them?
During the holidays, there’s plenty to think about, from trees and decorations to increased cooking and crowded kitchens. Kids can sustain burns from lights. When a Christmas tree is dried out, it can go up in flames in moments if it catches fire. Kids can also sustain burn injuries from baking, so make sure the kids are supervised at all times when helping.
Holiday gifts can present many potential hazards. Make sure kids receive age-appropriate gifts and read all safety materials. Having children of different ages in the same household means there’s a risk of receiving toys including small pieces, which can be choking hazards for young kids. Electronic toys with button batteries are also a significant risk and care must be taken around younger children that they do not swallow these tiny batteries, as doing so can result in serious injury or death.
When we move to outdoor activities, trauma from sledding continues to be a common occurrence. Avoid sledding in areas that are congested with lots of other people, which increases risks for extremity fractures in addition to head injuries.
Avoiding hypothermia also becomes an important issue when children are playing outside and are allowed to stay in wet clothes for extended periods, or when they don’t have enough layers on.
NJF: What are your most important tips as far as holiday light safety and kids and pets?
Make sure your Christmas tree is watered and well-hydrated to lessen the risk of a potentially serious fire hazard. Nothing beats parental supervision around trees and holiday decorations, and higher vigilance when at other people’s homes is important. For little ones, put safety gates around trees and keep lights and ornaments out of reach. And remember to shut off indoor lights at the end of day or when you’re out of the home.
NJF: From skiing to sledding, winter sports injuries are all too common. Beyond wearing protective headgear when skiing, snowboarding, sledding and tubing, what other safety tips can you share?
It’s essential to keep an adequate distance from other sledders or skiers. Avoid sledding, tubing and skiing near hazards such as trees and rocks. Take the time to get adequate training for children when they are learning to ski. Appropriate clothing and up-to-date, well-maintained gear can decrease the risk of injuries.
NJF: What about outdoor play in cold temps? How long is too long and how can we best keep our kids safe and protected?
When the weather is below freezing is when we see increases in hypothermia and other cold weather illnesses, so kids should avoid outdoor activity when temperatures are below 150F. Between 15 and 30 degrees, check on the children, ideally giving them breaks every 20 minutes. During the breaks, bring the children inside where they can warm up and where extremities can be checked, especially finger, toes, noses and ears should be checked and kept covered while outside.
Layers are important. Remove wet clothes and replace them with dry ones during breaks.
NJF: Anything else you would advise parents for the winter months?
Even with the increase in COVID cases, it’s still important for both physical and mental well-being that children play outside in order to get exercise and fresh air. Encourage safe outdoor socialization. For children it’s an important part of good mental health.