Winter Safety for Children

Winter is a perfect time of the year to stay warm and cozy indoors. But for many people, staying cooped in doors is not the ideal situation, and cabin fever often leads to what the medical profession is now calling SAD –Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression that correlates with the winter season. However, you don’t have to wait for spring to have some outdoor fun. Opportunities for outdoor fun abound in winter if you are ready for it! 

Sledding, snowmobiling, snowboarding are just a few of the fun things you can do as a family. Even shoveling snow can be made into a fun game that gets the adrenaline pumping! Are you ready to kick those winter blues and get outside for some fun? Here are a few safety issues to consider before you step outdoors with the kids. After all, snow and ice can be as dangerous as they are fun.

Dressing for the cold: Before stepping outside, make sure that everyone is bundled up to be warm. Dressing in layers is always helpful, especially when playing in the snow. Thermal long johns, turtlenecks, sweaters, coats, mittens and hats along with a layer or two of shirts should keep them warm enough. Warm socks and boots are also an important part of the ensemble. Waterproof pants and jackets make great outer layers as they do not allow wetness to seep into the rest of the layers. 

While there is no fixed amount of time to allow your kids to play outside, it helps to keep an eye out for frostbite. At the first signs of frost bite, bring them in doors and administer first aid or seek medical help. An aching pain or numbness in the hands, feet, ears or face, sometimes accompanied by waxy, hard skin that is turning white or grayish yellow in color, is the first sign that frost bite has set in. Very often, all it takes is an extra pair of gloves either tucked into their pockets or stowed away in your car, to ensure that frost bite can be avoided. And not to forget, it is still important to use sunscreen as snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Winter sports safety: Winter sports, while lots of fun, can often lead to serious accidents, many of which involve kids. ER’s are now seeing more cases of abdominal, head and neck injuries related to snowboarding and skiing. Neither of these activities should be attempted on slopes not specifically assigned for the purpose. Running into trees and rocks is often the cause of dangerous and sometimes fatal accidents while snowboarding and skiing. For sledding, make sure that the slope is covered in snow and not ice. Young children should always be supervised by an adult while skiing, snowboarding and sledding. Snowmobiling is not a recommended activity for younger children. It is important to travel at safe speeds and stay on marked trails while snowmobiling. If ice skating is the thing for your child, make sure they are skating only on approved surfaces. Also, ensure that they have on protective gear and properly fitted skates to avoid sports injury. 

For all of these activities, it is necessary that kids be taught the importance of wearing a helmet at all times while engaging in the chosen activity. Although shoveling is not technically a sport, it can be lots of fun as a family activity. However, it is not advisable for younger children to engage in this activity as it could lead to muscle strain.

Apart from outdoor safety issues, there are other things to consider during the winter months, to keep children safe.

Indoor safety: The winter months see a huge jump in respiratory illnesses. While most people believe that going out in the cold is what brings on these respiratory problems, the truth is that most respiratory issues are caused by being exposed to airborne germs that are trapped indoors. To ensure a healthy indoor environment, make sure that all family members wash their hands frequently, especially after playing with toys, coughing or sneezing, to prevent the spread of viruses. Change air filters on time and ensure that kids are getting a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. It is important to consult a physician about increasing Vitamin D intake during the winter months as researchers are now linking this deficiency to the lack of sun exposure in the winter months.

What to do in an emergency: Exposure to the elements in winter pose a greater risk for frostbite among kids than adults. An aching pain or numbness in the extremities or their skin turning hard and white is an indication that frost bite is setting in. Bring the child indoors immediately and remove all wet clothing as this tends to draw heat away from the body. Immerse the affected parts in warm (not hot) water that is 104⁰ to 108⁰ F, until sensation returns. Separate the frost-bitten fingers and toes with cotton balls and wrap with clean bandages to prevent refreezing. Do not rub frost bitten parts or apply dry heat to these parts. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be administered for the pain. If a body part or area of the skin is white and hard due to frost bite, seek medical attention immediately.

Make sure that your kids have had a healthy snack before heading outdoors. They will need those extra calories not only to stay warm, but also because all of these activities tend to burn calories very fast!


Danielle @ Happenings of the Harper Household said...

I can totally relate to SAD..... and I know one of my very good friends does too. I will have to follow these tips and bundle the kids up on sunny days during the winter and gets outside!

Whitney said...

These are great tips - thanks for sharing!

Danielle @ "We Have It All" said...

Great tips. I think a lot of this slips our mind because winter seems to creep up on us. As for the SAD - that's me. I become a hermit in the winter. I don't even want to go out to grocery shopping, so depressing. It's like a dark cloud is above my house until spring.

Anyway, thanks for all the tips!

Skye said...

I did not even know what SAD was!
I hate the cold of winter, but my husband loves to be out in it, so we always drive around when it snows :)

bigguysmama said...

ugh, winter in MN is horrid. Last year my son ended up with bad frostbite on his cheeks. =( Bad mom moment! Will be more careful this year!


Tree said...

Thanks for the great tips! I am not a fan of winter, but try to make the best of it. I'm constantly yelling to my kids to get (or keep) their coat on. LOL

Lilac said...

Don't forget car seat safety! 5-point harnesses don't mix with puffy winter coats. In an accident, the puffy coat will compress making the straps of the car seat too loose to hold the child in and he/she can be ejected or partially ejected from the seat!

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