Stories about: winter safety

Our patients’ stories: Sledding safety counts

By Leah Buckley


It was a few years ago, but I still remember that cold, grey February morning vividly. As I tugged on my boots and winter coat—and fought with my zipper through my thick gloves—I called out to my mother to let her know that I was heading out with friends to go sledding.

“Be careful,” she said from the other room, “I love you.”

Those were the last words my mother said to me on what would turn out to be one of the scariest days of my life.

As we pulled up to the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course and stepped outside, all we could see was our breath in the cold morning air and the glint of the sun reflecting off the icy hills sprawled in front of us. We were excited to hit the slopes, but the ground was so iced over it took us a good 15 minutes just to reach the top of the first hill. The ride down was much, much faster.

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Winter safety goes beyond ice and cold

To the unprepared, New England winters can be dangerous. Sledding, skiing and skating are fun but risky, and it’s impossible to avoid slippery sidewalks or roads narrowed by huge snow banks.

But amidst all the warnings about ice and cold exposure, a potentially deadly winter safety hazard often gets over looked: carbon monoxide (CO) which enters our breathing air through many different sources like car exhaust, indoor charcoal grills, furnaces and other devices powered by fossil fuels. Often called the silent killer, CO is colorless, odorless and tasteless, making leaks and build-ups difficult to notice. Its a dangerous situation and leads to more than 200 deaths every year. Complicating its detection even more, the effects of CO poisoning are very similar to that of a flu, cold or infection. A ringing in the ears, headache, nausea, weakness and/or dizziness all could indicate that a person is being poisoned by carbon monoxide, but because these symptoms are often associated with less serious illnesses, many people who are overexposed to it mistakenly think they’re catching a seasonal bug. In many of these cases the affected person will lie down or rest to feel better, sometimes never waking up.

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Careful not to slip-slide your way into a winter sports injury

Lois Lee, MD, MPH works in Children’s Emergency Department Injury Prevention Program

Having grown up in Florida, I never The boy laying on snowunderstood the appeal of winter sports until my son took up skiing. Now, to keep him and his sister active in the winter, we enjoy skiing, sledding and ice skating. These are great family activities, but they do carry some risk. Read on for safety tips to keep healthy while having fun in the cold!

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