Winter is a great season for outdoor activities, such as sledding and skating. Cold weather, ice and snow can be both fun and dangerous for children. Winter fun is beckoning, but keeping kids healthy, warm and entertained can be trickier than putting snow boots on a squirrel.
During the winter months, ice, snow and cold temperatures can make life challenging for everyone. Whether winter brings severe storms, light dusting or just cold temperatures, here we have some valuable tips on how to keep your children safe and warm. Slippery sidewalks and cold weather can cause a wide range of injuries and illnesses – especially for seniors.
What to wear
Dress warmly in layers of windproof clothing to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Remember mittens or gloves, a scarf and a hat that covers your ears. Don’t forget to treat your feet, warm socks and waterproof boots will keep your feet dry.
- Dress your child warmly for outdoor activities. Don’t forget to wear warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat. Use thin layers to keep them dry and warm.
- The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
- The loose bedding should be kept out of an infant’s sleeping environment like blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers and sheepskins because they are associated with suffocation deaths and may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Sleep clothing like one-piece sleepers or wearable blankets is preferred.
- Keep ears covered at all times to prevent frostbite. Use a neck warmer instead of a scarf and mitten clips instead of a string to prevent choking. Wear mittens instead of gloves so that are roomy enough for an extra pair of socks and to wiggle toes around.
- If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping infant warm, it should be tucked in around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby’s chest, so the infant’s face is less likely to become covered by bedding materials.
Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia – a condition where the body temperature dips too low.
- Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal, i.e., 95 degrees due to exposure to colder temperatures.
- As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body temperature will decline in more severe cases.
- It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. It can occur more quickly in children than in adults.
- If you suspect your child is hypothermic, immediately move him to the hospital. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.
Frostbite is another cold weather concern and is especially dangerous because it often happens with little warning.
- Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. It tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.
- If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot) water. 104° Fahrenheit (about the temperature of most hot tubs) is recommended. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears and lips.
- Victims may feel no more than a ‘pins and needles’ sensation in the hands and feet. Numbness can occur so quickly that the victim, unaware of being frostbitten, may remain outdoors, increasing his or her chances of permanent damage.
- Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to drink.
- If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.
- Try using a cold air humidifier in the child’s room at night if your child suffers from winter nosebleeds. Saline nose drops or petrolatum may help keep nasal tissues moist. If bleeding is severe or recurrent, consult your pediatrician.
- Many pediatricians feel that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant’s first year. More frequent baths may dry out the skin, especially during the winter.
- Cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu.
- Children 6 months of age and up should get the influenza vaccine to reduce their risk of catching the flu.
Winter sports and activities
Action games, making snow angles and building snowmen will help to keep your child warm.
- Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Have children come inside periodically to warm up.
- Stay away from snowplows and snow blowers. Choose a play area away from roads, fences and water.
The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen and consider using sun glasses.
Winter is a time when household fires occur. At the beginning of each winter season, get your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional. Buildup in the chimney can cause a fire if it is not properly cleaned. It is a good time to remember to:
- Buy and install smoke alarms on every floor of your home
- Test smoke alarms monthly and practice fire drills with your children
- Never use flammable liquids, evergreen trimmings, wrapping paper, cardboard, trash or debris.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector outside bedrooms
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that could burn, and turn them off when leaving the room or sleeping
Cooking and kitchen safety
Cooking fires are the most common type of fires in U.S. households. By paying attention while cooking, you can prevent a kitchen fire.
- If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. Turn off the stove if you have to leave the kitchen, even if only for a short time.
- Keep away from the stove top which are flammable. Wear close-fitting clothing that won’t drape over or touch burners while you are cooking.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, boiling food, you don’t have to stay in the kitchen, but you do need to stay in the home. Check the food regularly and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Turkey fryers pose significant fire hazards because they may produce delicious holiday dinners.
Portable heaters & space heaters
Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire, including paper, clothing and furniture. Make sure all heaters are in safe working condition.
Small children and pets should not be left alone with heaters. So make sure to turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.