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Winter safety tips from OHSU Doernbecher and the Oregon Poison Center

As winter weather intensifies, children and adults alike look forward to playing in the snow or sitting around a cozy fireplace. But winter can also bring increased risks associated with cold weather. The Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Oregon Poison Center suggest following these helpful winter weather safety tips:

Ensure proper use and storage of all medicines

  • Keep all medicines out of reach in a locked cupboard or box.
  • Read labels for dosage instructions and never exceed dosage recommendations without talking with your doctor; when taking two medicines, always be sure the ingredients are different to avoid exceeding the approved dosage.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Be aware of increased exposure to carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be fatal if inhaled in large quantities; the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases in the winter when heating devices are used and closed windows decreases fresh air circulation.
  • Know what can cause increased exposure, such as a leaking car muffler, improperly functioning home heating furnaces, woodstoves used in poorly ventilated rooms or burning charcoal indoors.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in your home or vehicle and get fresh air immediately if symptoms such as headaches, nausea, sleepiness or vomiting occur.
  • Install UL-approved carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home.
  • Check heating appliances annually and before you first use them in cold weather.

Keep antifreeze and windshield washing fluid away from children and pets

  • Prevent exposure to antifreeze products and windshield-washing fluid, which contain toxic chemicals that can cause severe illness or blindness if ingested; large amounts can be fatal.
  • Store these and other car care products in locked cabinets and never put them in old food containers for storage.
  • Rinse empty containers thoroughly and recap before discarding.

Use de-icing salt properly

  • Ensure children and pets do not ingest de-icing salt, which is used on driveways, sidewalks and porches for traction in snowy and icy conditions.
  • Store out of reach and monitor children and pets when outside.

Prevent injuries while having fun in the snow

  • Ensure gear is in good working order before enjoying snow sports such as sledding, skiing or snowboarding.
  • Make sure your child wears wrist guards, kneepads and a snug-fitting helmet designed for snow sports. Do not substitute helmets designed for another sport. Always replace the helmet if it has sustained a significant blow.
  • Use sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses or goggles to prevent sunburn and eye damage, even on cloudy days.
  • Always find a safe environment in which to sled. Do not sled in poorly lit areas and do not pull riders on a sled behind a moving vehicle. A ‘steerable’ wooden sled with flexible metal runners is recommended for children ages six to 12.

Know how to prevent, identify and treat frostnip and frostbite

  • Prevent frostbite and frostnip by wearing warm clothes, dressing in layers and replacing wet clothes with dry clothes.
  • Know the difference between frostnip and frostbite: Frostnip is an early form of frostbite where affected areas turn white and numb. Frostbite is characterized by waxy, white and hard skin that feels numb and has a burning sensation. Skin will become blue and mottled or splotchy in sever cases of Frostbite.
  • Treat frostnip and frostbite by changing into dry and warm clothes and submerging the affected areas in warm water (between 101 and 104 degrees) until they turn red, then dry thoroughly. Stay hydrated with warm liquids.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for severe frostbite.
  • Do not rub or bump the affected area, do not use direct heat such as a heating pad or hair dryer and do not pop blisters that may appear.
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