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Tips to Keep Your Children Safe and Warm This Winter

winter

The winter season is a fun time of year for children of all ages, and keeping your child safe and warm is a priority. Here are some helpful tips to meet that challenge:

1) Layer Up!
The key to staying warm while outdoors in the winter is to wear layers. Dress your child in several thin layers and remember warm, waterproof boots, gloves or mittens, scarves, and hats. A good general rule of thumb for infants and children is to dress them in one more layer than what you would wear as an adult in the same weather conditions. Avoid bulky layers such as thick coats or blankets when your infant or toddler is in a car seat—it can make the harness too loose and reduce its effectiveness.

Avoid using blankets or other loose bedding in cribs for infants under the age of 1 year due to the increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Instead, put your infant to sleep in a warm one-piece sleeper or wearable blanket.

Keep in mind that hypothermia and frostbite can occur quicker in children than adults. Shivering and slurred speech may be signs of hypothermia. Pale or gray skin color and numbness or burning pain to the extremities may be signs of frostbite. If you suspect hypothermia or frostbite, bring your child indoors, remove cold and wet clothing, dry the skin, and cover your child in warm, dry blankets or clothing. If you are concerned about frostbite, soak any affected body parts in warm water prior to drying your child off and covering up with dry blankets or clothing. In addition to taking those initial steps, call your child’s doctor.

2) Stay safe while playing winter sports.
Winter sports are a great way to stay active and healthy during the winter season. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while enjoying these activities.

In general:
-Make sure children are supervised when playing outdoors.
-Have younger children take frequent breaks while playing to come indoors, drink warm beverages, and to warm up before going outside again.

Ice Skating:
-Allow children to skate on approved surfaces only. Make sure ice skates fit comfortably with good ankle support to help prevent injuries.
-Consider having your child wear protective gear such as a helmet and knee pads, especially when he or she is still learning how to skate.

Sledding:
-Do not allow your child to sled near motor vehicles or open roadways.
-Head injuries may be prevented by avoiding sledding head-first and by wearing a helmet. Avoid sledding on slopes with obstacles such as trees or fences.

Skiing and Snowboarding:
-Children should be taught to ski or snowboard by a qualified instructor. All skiers and snowboarders should wear helmets and other appropriate protective gear that fits correctly.
-Only allow children to ski or snowboard on slopes that are appropriate for their maturity level and skill level.

3) Trying to avoid the winter cold and flu season? Practice good hand hygiene!
Cold weather itself does not cause illness, but viruses that cause the common cold or flu tend to be more easily spread during this time of year, especially when people are spending more time together indoors in close quarters. Help keep your family healthy by washing hands frequently. Another way to help prevent the spread of germs is to teach your child to cough or sneeze into the crease of their elbow. If you or your child is sick, one of the best things you can do to help prevent the spread of illness is to stay home and rest!

Children 6 months and older are also recommended to receive the flu vaccine to help protect them against influenza. If your infant is too young to receive the flu vaccine, you can help protect them by getting the flu vaccine yourself and encouraging anyone who will be in close contact with your child to also get vaccinated.

4) Skin care: moisturizer and sunscreen!
Along with the frequent hand washing and cold weather comes dry, chapped skin. One of the best ways to treat dry skin at home is to use an unscented moisturizer at least one to two times daily. Use lip balm to help prevent chapped lips.

It is often overlooked, but sun exposure can still cause sunburn even in the winter. Beginning at the age of 6 months and older, you can protect your child’s skin by applying sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher to exposed areas of skin.

For more information, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) “Winter Safety Tips” online or ask your child’s physician. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and safe winter season!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Madhavi Kapoor, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center and a pediatrician at NYU Langone’s Trinity Center.