Winter Safety

    by Lisa Doyle

    Winter is in full swing here in Alberta and that means the start of outdoor sports and activities. Staying active throughout the winter is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and is a great way to socialize and get together with friends and family. To help you and your loved ones stay safe this winter, you can follow a Smart Risks approach to help prevent and reduce the severity of an injury.

    Look First:

    Check the weather forecast before heading out for a fun day in the snow. According to Parachute Canada, children should refrain from playing outside if the temperature dips below -25 C, as this temperature can cause skin to freeze within minutes of exposure.  Checking the weather beforehand also gives you an idea of what outer wear is needed.  Ice skating is a favorite family activity. Before strapping on the skates and heading out onto the pond or lake, ensure that the ice is thick enough.  For skating activities and parties the ice should be at least 20 cm thick. Many families will also toboggan with the children as a fun activity. It is important the children be accompanied while sledding and that an adult verifies that the area is safe from hazards such as plants, trees, ponds and roads nearby that could be dangerous.

    Wear the Gear:

    Wearing the proper protective gear for winter is essential to keep warm and enjoy your time outside.  It is important to wear layers in the winter, while also making sure to have a windproof and waterproof jacket. Always remember to wear a hat to prevent heat loss and to keep your ears warm. Opt for mittens over gloves as they keep your hands warmer. Look for winter boots that are waterproof as they will keep your feet dry. Something that just came to my attention recently is the importance of using neck warmers instead of a scarf.  Scarves can get caught on objects and cause strangulation.  Make sure to wear any other protective gear that is needed for the activity that you are participating in. For example, Parachute Canada suggests wearing a ski helmet while tobogganing as they are designed for similar purposes. It is also essential that you buckle up your gear correctly, as having protective equipment unsecure will not provide the protection needed to prevent or reduce the severity of an injury.

    Get Trained

    This season many families will hit the slopes at one of the many ski hills within Canada. Getting trained and taking a lesson can reduce your chance of injury and will give you the skills and knowledge you need to feel more confident. Another popular winter activity is tobogganing so it is important to talk to your children about sledding safety.  For example, ensure that your child is sitting in the sled and that arms and legs stay inside. To avoid crashing into other tobogganers, slide down the middle of the hill and walk up the sides. As a young child, I endured a tobogganing crash that could have been prevented had the individuals not been walking directly up the middle of the hill. For whatever winter activity you are doing, ensure you are trained so that you can reduce your risk of injury while enjoying our beautiful Canadian winters.

    For more information about winter sports and activity safety please visit:  

    Lisa Doyle is a Health Promotion Facilitator with Alberta Health Services. She can be reached by e-mail, [email protected]


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