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Home / News and Events / Health Tips / Ice: A dangerous temptation
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Ice: A dangerous temptation
 

Reviewed By: Thomas Abramo, M.D., director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine (Last Updated: January 14, 2010)
  

Sub-freezing weather often causes concern for health and safety experts regarding a temptation for children: ice. To a child, a frozen pond might look like a fun place to play or skate, but parents need to be aware it is not safe. It can be very dangerous for children to play on ice. In some regions ice will not form thick enough to safely hold a child’s weight.

“One morning my husband called to tell me a neighbor’s son and his friend had fallen through the ice in a pond right outside our homes,” said Betsy Beazley, R.N., at the Pediatric Emergency Department at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “These boys were strong enough to pull themselves out, but an 8- or 10-year-old child in the same circumstances might not have survived.”

Ponds don’t often freeze over often in southern parts of the U.S. But when they do, children become in danger of falling through and can quickly succumb to hypothermia. Experts in the Emergency Department at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt say they prepare every year to see children with hypothermia, or frost-bitten extremities.

“Any child who falls through the ice and is submerged in frigid water should be evaluated at an emergency department. Hypothermia puts children at risk for tissue or nerve destruction,” said Thomas Abramo, M.D., director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine in the Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics.

Abramo said if a child is not submerged but still has any signs of hypothermia, even just on fingertips or toes, parents need to treat the skin with great care to avoid further damage.

  • Remove wet clothing and bring the child into a warm area.
  • Do not rub the effected skin.
  • Do not use a hair dryer.
  • Circulate warm air or water as this helps to warm the skin faster.
  • Use great care with warm water, checking to be sure it is not too warm.

“When skin is hypothermic it loses sensation, so a child could be burned with hot water or a hot hair dryer, causing even more damage,” Abramo said.

If the body part that was hypothermic remains pale, or bright red for an extended period of time after the child is warmed up, a doctor should evaluate.

Most safety resources say ice 4 to 5 inches thick might be considered safe for people to stand on. But this would take weeks of consistently sub-freezing temperatures.

See more information on ice safety at SafeSport.

Learn how to offer first aid to someone who has fallen through the ice and been submerged (PDF download).


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