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health tips

Winter Safety Tips


Whether winter brings severe storms, light dustings or just cold temperatures, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some valuable tips on how to keep your children safe and warm.  Please feel free to excerpt these tips or use them in their entirety for any print or broadcast story, with acknowledgment of source.

WHAT TO WEAR

  • Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities.  Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don't forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat. Choose boots that are large enough to comfortably accommodate two pairs of socks.
  • Remove drawstrings from clothing which may get caught on tree branches or play equipment.  Replace with velcro.
  • 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.
  • When riding in the car, babies and children should wear thin, snug layers rather than thick, bulky coats or snowsuits. See Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP for help keeping your little ones warm and safe in the car.
  • Blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding should be kept out of an infant's sleeping environment because they are associated with suffocation deaths and may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is better to use sleep clothing like one-piece sleepers or wearable blankets.  
  • If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping infant warm, it should be thin and tucked under 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.

 HYPOTHERMIA

  • Hypothermia develops when a child's temperature falls below normal because of exposure to colder temperatures. 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.
  • 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. 
  • If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.

WINTER HEALTH

  • If your child suffers from winter nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in the child's room at night. 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. It is not too late to get the vaccine! Around 80% of all influenza illness generally occurs in January, February, and March.

WINTER SPORTS & ACTIVITIES

Ice Skating 

  • Allow children to skate only on approved surfaces.  Check for signs posted by local police or recreation departments, or call your local police department to find out which areas have been approved.
  • Advise your child to:
    • Skate in the same direction as the crowd
    • Avoid darting across the ice
    • Never skate alone
    • Not chew gum or eat candy while skating
    • Consider having your child wear a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads, especially while learning to skate

Sledding 

  • Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.
  • Children should be supervised while sledding.
  • Children less than 5 years of age should not sled alone.
  • Keep young children separated from older children.
  • Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.
  • Consider having your child wear a (hockey not bicycle) helmet while sledding.
  • Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated.
  • Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like trees or fences, be covered in snow, not ice, not be too steep (slope of less than 30º), and end with a flat runoff.
  • Avoid sledding in crowded areas

SUN PROTECTION

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 sunglasses or goggles with UV protection.

FIRE PROTECTION

Winter is a time when household fires occur. It is a good time to remember to:

  • Buy and install smoke alarms on every floor of your home
  • Test smoke alarms monthly
  • Practice fire drills with your children
  • 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

© American Academy of Pediatrics, 1/17