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Safety Tips For Winter Frolicking And Driving

Winter roadSkiers, snowboarders and ice skaters may find winter wonderful, but doctors warn that it could also be a time for serious injury. Anything from scrapes and sprains to fractures and hypothermia could put a damper on any cold weather activity, experts say, even if it's something as simple as a walk down the block.

It's very common for people to slip on icy sidewalks, says Doug Hill, Mdm a staff emergency physician at the North Suburban Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. Older women are at special risk of getting wrist fractures from such falls, he says, because their bones may not be as strong as they used to be.

"We see [falls from icy sidewalks] probably more this time of year--not because of the ice so much, but because people are carrying Christmas packages and grocery bags, and don't have a good view of where they're going," says Hill. To prevent such accidents, he recommends that people always have a good view of their path, and to not carry too much at one time.

Falls are also the source of injuries for most skiers and snowboarders. Skiers tend to get minor knee sprains and thumb sprains, while snowboarders are hurt more in their shoulders and arms. Wearing protective equipment and taking appropriate lessons are key to preventing injury, says Hill.

For child skiers, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents provide their kids with competent instruction, proper equipment and appropriate supervision when out on the slopes. AAP also says it's important to make sure children's gloves and shoes stay dry. If either gets wet, officials recommend changing them into a dry pair.

Car accidents are also reportedly more frequent during the winter, even with vehicles that aren't going very fast. "People tend to drive faster than conditions warrant," says Hill, noting that morning commuters may be at particular risk because roads tend to be more icy at the beginning of the day, and drivers at that time are usually in a hurry to get to work.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has issued a few safety tips for people driving in foul weather.

--Always wear your seat belt.

--Make sure your windshield and mirrors are clear of frost, snow and ice, and the driver's seat is positioned properly.

--Plan ahead. Leave earlier than usual to allow extra time to reach your destination.

--Keep a "winter emergency kit" in your car. It should include a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, snacks, extra gloves, hat, blanket, sand, a small shovel and boots. A warm sleeping bag is also a good idea.

--In a skid situation, if your car is equipped with an Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), remember to maintain continuous pressure on your brakes. If your car does not have ABS, and you feel your car starting to skid, pump your brakes lightly. Turn your car to follow the direction of the skid to help maintain control.

The ACEP also names hypothermia and frostbite as two of the most dangerous conditions from cold weather. Hypothermia happens when one's internal body temperature drops below normal, and frostbite occurs when the skin freezes because of the cold. Hypothermia victims should be taken to a dry, warm place and covered with either blankets or body heat. Frostbite victims should also be taken to a warm, dry place and given warm moist compresses. The affected areas should be raised.

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