With winter here, I have found myself cooling off a lot of parents who have questions about their children's safety when ice skating both indoors and outdoors. Almost 20,000 children are being seen for skating injuries on a yearly basis, so this week let me see if I can glide through a few skating safety tips.

Children should be allowed to skate on only approved surfaces - meaning areas that have been cleared by local police or parks and recreation departments, or at the least by a responsible adult. Ice needs to be at least 4-6 inches thick to support one child, let alone an adult.

Regarding equipment, a recent study on head injuries found more injuries occurring in recreational ice skaters than in those using in-line skates or skateboards - thus a helmet should be strongly considered - especially if you are just starting out. Skates should also fit properly if you want to prevent an accident. Putting socks inside a pair of skates to pad them for a hand-me-down from an older to younger sibling is not a good idea.

All chewing gum or candy should be thrown away before skating so that a child doesn't choke on something if hit by someone else, and so that the sticky material doesn't end up on the ice and cause someone else to fall.

When outside, no one should go out onto the ice alone - always have a buddy with your child if you are not accompanying them. If your child changes locations on a pond, have the buddy walk at least 10 yards apart from your child so that if one person falls through the ice, the other can go for help.

Always make sure your older children tell you when, where, with whom and for how long they are going out on a pond skating.

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