Winter finds me cooling off a lot of parents who have questions about ice skating safety. For good reason, too: Almost 20,000 children are seen for ice skating injuries on a yearly basis. Let me see if I can glide through a few helpful safety tips.
- Only allow ice skating on approved surfaces. These are areas that local police or parks and recreation departments – or at the least a responsible adult – have cleared. Ice needs to be at least 4-6 inches thick to support one child, let alone an adult.
- A recent study found more head injuries occurring in ice skaters than in those using in-line skates or skateboards. For that reason, I recommend a helmet – especially if someone is new to skating. Skates should also fit properly to prevent an accident. Putting socks inside to pad hand-me-down skates for a younger sib is not a good idea.
- Throw away all chewing gum or candy before skating. This way, a child won’t choke on these foods if they collide with someone or fall. Also, sticky material from candy or gum won’t end up on the ice and cause someone else to fall.
- When outside, make sure your children tell you when and where they are going out on a pond skating. No child or teen should go out onto the ice alone. Always insist that a friend go with your child onto outside ice.
- What to do if a child falls through the ice? First, they should stretch their arms over the ice. Then they should push themselves forward on their stomach to try to crawl back onto solid ice. They should try to stay calm and not attempt to swim to prevent hypothermia. Swimming can cause the body to lose heat much faster than trying to stay as still as possible.
- If a pet falls through the ice, tell your child not to attempt to rescue the pet themselves. Have them go to get help instead.
Hopefully tips like this will not have you or your child out on thin ice when staying safe while skating.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.