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Sledding in winter snow is great fun for all ages, and for many, the highlight of the season. Whether you have toddlers who are content to slide down a gentle slope, or older children who like nothing more than watching the world whiz by as they zoom down the steepest hill, remember these tips to keep your children safe and warm while sledding this winter.
For the year 2004, the Consumer Products Safety Commission noted 74,000 sledding related injuries; the most common – and serious- injury was injury to the head and neck.
Children under the age of 5 are susceptible to sustaining head injuries and injury to the face because they like to ride head first. They are prone to getting their fingers caught under the sled runners, too.
Children in the age range 5 to 9 are injured most often –this age group loves adventure, and has little sense of what is dangerous. They are susceptible to injury to the spine if they fly off the sled going swiftly down a hill. Also common are broken arms and legs.
 The playing field
The area where your children go sledding should have the following qualities:
- Covered with at least 2 inches of snow, preferably 3 or more inches of the white stuff.
- The hill should not end on a road or anywhere else where traffic could pose a hazard.
- The hill should be free of rocks, trees, fences, creeks, and areas where there is no snow.
- There should be a large flat area at the bottom where the sleds slow down naturally.
- The hill should not be too steep.
Also be sure that your child does not use a snow ramp – these are large piles of snow that send the rider into the air. The potential is there for someone to lose control and get seriously injured – or even killed.
 The equipment
- The safest sled is an old fashioned steerable sled with runners. They are much easier to control, and therefore reduce injuries, than other types of sleds like tubes, toboggans or saucers.
- Sleds should be inspected prior to use and be free of any damage, splinters or worn areas.
- A helmet is mandatory – we equip our children with these for every other sport, don’t forget it now.
- Bundle your children warmly, as they are more susceptible to injury from the cold – hypothermia in particular. This condition is where the body’s temperature falls below normal, and it can be life threatening. Check your children’s condition often, and immediately bring them in if they get wet.
- Have water bottles available and encourage water breaks. Children can dehydrate as a result of heavy breathing and sweating underneath their clothing.
- Sunscreen – Even though you can probably only see a tiny bit of your child’s skin after they are bundled up to go sledding, make sure you slather on sunscreen to keep it from getting sunburn.
- To reduce the risk of head injury, riders should lie down facing up, feet first down the hill. The second safest position is sitting up facing forward.
- Children should be taught to roll off the sled if they think they are going too fast or if they are about to crash. Tell them they can collect their sled later, it will be okay.
- You should also tell your kids to never sled into a snow bank. Snow banks can have hidden rocks, stumps, or other hazards within them.
- Never sled in the dark.
 More tips
- Advise them that sledding can be a dangerous activity and that the snow is not going to cushion every blow.
- Supervise your children at all times to make sure that the fun does not get out of control.
- Keep the older kids and the younger ones separate – they should sled in different areas.
- Children should never ride a sled that is being pulled by any motorized vehicle, including snowmobiles.
- Beware of frostbite - Frostbite can happen to anyone that is exposed to cold temperatures. It is a condition where the skin and underlying tissue is frozen, resulting in tissue damage. Tissue damage can occur in as little as thirty seconds in the worst conditions. Children are more susceptible to frostbite than adults are because they lose heat faster and they are reluctant to go inside when they are having fun.