In spite of the conventional wisdom children can be subject to the same dangers from shoveling snow as out of shape adults, but in a different way.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital reports that between 1990 and 2006, an average of 11,500 snow shoveling-related incidents made their way to U.S. emergency rooms. The report states that throughout the years of the study, every year over 1,750 children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age were injured while shoveling snow.

Horseplay involving shovels was the leading cause of injury in children. In fact, children younger than 19 were about 15 times more likely than older people to receive injuries from getting struck by a shovel. Two-thirds of the kids’ injuries were to the head.

Gary Smith, MD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy states, “Shoveling snow can be a great outdoor activity for kids; however, it is important for parents to teach children the correct way to shovel snow and remind them that shovels are not toys. Many of the snow shovel-related injuries to children are the result of horseplay or other inappropriate uses of snow shovels.”

Children can also get lower back injuries from shoveling snow. Most people, especially kids have no idea how to employ proper body mechanics when they need to lift heavy objects. That includes a snow filled shovel. Even if a child does use proper body mechanics, shoveling snow it is still physically draining work and breaks are mandatory.

Dr. Smith also states, “Not only is the heart’s workload increased due to shoveling snow, but cold temperatures also add to the chances of a heart attack in at-risk individuals.”

Here are a few additional tips for preventing injuries to your children when they are shoveling snow:

  • Warm up with light exercise before starting.
  • Make sure your children pace themselves by taking frequent rest breaks. If the weather is especially cold do NOT let them stay outside for more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Remind them the best way to clear snow is by pushing it instead of lifting.
  • Purchase ergonomically designed shovels. They are an excellent choice for reducing bending and heavy lifting.
  • Try and avoid large shoveling jobs by getting the kids to clear snow in small batches for again, no more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Make sure your children wear warm clothing including a hat and gloves. The mantra here is layers. Make sure they also wear slip-resistant, high-traction footwear.

Frostbite is always a potential danger with outdoor wintertime activities. Download this outstanding guide on Frostbite from Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus Ohio.