How to Sled Safely

Children look forward to snow days for the break from school and the chance to venture out into the snowy white wilderness -- even if that just may mean your own backyard.

A popular snow day pastime is to go sledding. What should be an enjoyable day with family and friends could turn into a trip to the doctor if safety precautions are not taken.

* Be sure sledders are dressed appropriately for the weather. It doesn't take long for hypothermia to set in when the weather is cold. The combination of sweating from sledding exertion and the cold air could cause hypothermia to commence very quickly. Have everyone dress in layers so they can regulate their body temperature based on the conditions. Avoid cotton clothes, which will soak up moisture from the snow and perspiration. Synthetic and wool fabrics will dry quickly and are better insulators from the cold than cotton.

* Purchase a safe sled. Plastic sheets, sliding carpets and saucers are not good shapes or styles for sleds because they are very difficult to control. Choose sleds with aerodynamic shapes, seating areas, places for legs, steerable ropes, etc. Make sure that stopping buffers are covered in soft materials to cushion impact.

* Have everyone practice getting off the sled in the case of an emergency. It's much safer to destroy the sled than have an individual end up in the emergency room. Rolling off of an out-of-control sled can prevent serious injuries.

* Know the terrain in advance. It's easy to misjudge the slope and depth of terrain when it's covered with snow. Also, snow may be covering hidden dangers. Scope out areas where sledding will occur so you know what you'll be dealing with. Make sure sledders won't collide with stationery objects or be put into the line of danger and slide into a roadway.

* Consider wearing helmets while sledding. This simple piece of safety equipment can prevent serious head injuries should a collision or fall occur.

* Know your limits. Have designated areas where sledders of all skill levels can play. Younger, less experienced sledders may need a "bunny hill" instead of a steep incline.

* Sled in an orderly fashion. Everyone should wait their turn. Make sure there is clearance from other sledders going down before taking a turn. Accidents from pile-ups are painful.

* Learn first aid. Snowy conditions could make it more difficult for emergency personnel to get to an area should an accident occur. Make sure you know basic first aid and carry a mobile phone to call for help in the event of an emergency.

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