With Maryland temperatures at or below freezing recently, it is important to take the time to explain ice safety with your children so that they are aware of the potential hazards and can avoid needless accidents.
With the arrival of arctic temperatures, ice has already formed on parts of the Chesapeake Bay as well as many local tributaries, lakes and ponds. It may be very tempting for kids and adults who still feel like a kid to test the newly formed winter wonderland. But while it may be safe for waterfowl to venture out onto the ice, people are a different story. Parents should always closely watch and supervise their children – and ice is no exception.
The crust that forms on top of the Bay and smaller local waterways is unstable due to water swirling in the currents beneath it. Pond ce is most fragile in frozen areas around an open patch and along the shore. Children and adults should avoid shorelines, where smooth ice that looks solid is weak.
On average, it takes at least five to seven consecutive days of sub-zero temperatures for the ice to form to the six to eight iches necessary for it to be safe enough to skate on. In Northern Michigan they are quit familiar with frigid temperatures. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources warns that no ice is safe ice. Especially if there has been snow. Anytime ice is covered by snow you should always assume it is unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall can also warm up and melt existing ice.
If there is slush on the ice, definitely stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom. Avoid areas with protruding logs, brush, plants and docks. These structures can absorb heat from the sun, thus weakening the surrounding ice. Also, many area marinas and even private citizens have bubblers around their docks to keep ice from forming. Any ice that forms nearby will be weaker.
If a child falls through ice, hypothermia can develop quickly, even if the child was not completely submerged. Hypothermia occurs quicker in children than adults. Aside from an ice accident, it can also occur when a child is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. Symptoms include shivering, lethargy and clumsiness. Speech may become slurred and body temperature will decline in more severe cases. The American Academy of Pediatrics says if you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. While waiting for help to arrive, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap the child in blankets or warm clothes.
For more winter safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, click here.
If your child is just begging to go ice skating, there are many safe options in our area. Some are indoor, and some are outdoor – but much safer as the ice is maintained by professionals.