Blog written by Guardline.
Winter isn't a time to sit pretty, waiting for the low temperatures to pass by and for spring to come along. The season can bring a lot of fun for the entire family. Whether hanging around the house together or sledding, snowboarding, and romping around in the snow, you can enjoy the season. However, while the cold weather, snow, and ice can be fun, they can also be dangerous for children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides some winter safety tips to help you protect yourself and keep you warm.
How to Dress Your Children for Cold Weather
Before stepping out with your children for any activities, ensure you keep up with the following:
- Dress babies, infants, and children warmly for outdoor activities. Use several thin layers of clothes to keep them warm and dry. Warm boots, mittens or gloves, and a hat should be part of their dress at all times.
- A safe tip for older babies and young children is to ensure they have one more layer of clothing than they would have given the same conditions.
- When riding in the car, dress your babies and children in thin, snug layers instead of thick and bulky snowsuits or coats.
- Don't put your blankets, sheepskins, bumpers, quilts, and other loose bedding in an infant's sleeping environment. Such fabrics can quickly cause suffocation. The best pieces to use are wearable blankets and one-piece sleepers.
- If you must use a blanket to keep a baby warm when sleeping, ensure it is thin and inserted under the cot mattress. It should not spread beyond the baby's chest to prevent the chances of covering the face, which could lead to suffocation.
- Keep children minimally exposed to cold. Young children and babies don't have the same tolerance to extreme temperatures as adults do. Once you get outside for fun activities, limit the time the children spend out.
Exposure to drastically low temperatures in winter, it can cause hypothermia. This condition occurs when body temperatures fall below average because of exposure to freezing external temperatures.
Kids are at increased risk of developing the condition when they play outside in cold temperatures without proper clothing. They're also at risk when their clothes get wet as they play, causing hypothermia faster in children than in adults.
Symptoms of Hypothermia
- Slurred Speech
- Declining Body Temperature
If you suspect a case of hypothermia in your child, call 911 immediately. While you wait for help to arrive, take the child indoors, dress them warmly, and wrap them in a warm blanket after removing any wet clothing.
Dealing with Frostbite
Frostbite is the result of freezing in the skin and outer tissues. The condition mostly happens on extremities like the nose, ears, fingers, and toes. The affected areas become gray, pale, and blistered. At the same time, your child may complain of skin burns or numbness. Just like hypothermia, frostbite can be a dangerous outcome of exposure to freezing temperatures.
If frostbite affects your child, take them indoors and place the affected parts in warm water. The recommended water temperature is 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about the temperature of many hot tubs.
Avoid rubbing the frozen areas and cover the child with warm clothing or blankets afterward and give them something warm to drink. If the numbness persists for more than a few minutes, consult your doctor.
Winter Sports Safety Tips
Just because the temperatures are freezing, cold and snowy in winter doesn't mean that your family should hibernate. It only means that you need to take extra caution to enjoy the outdoors while keeping winter hazards at bay. Winter safety tips for children include knowing which winter sports to let children engage in and how to keep them safe while at it.
Sledding or Tobogganing
If your children decide to go sledding for the day, ensure you know where the hill is and whether it's covered with trees or steep. If so, it may not be the best location for them to sled. Also, keep them away from hills with rocks and those bordering busy roads.
Sledding injuries can be severe, leading to trauma to the abdomen, neck, head, and broken bones. Supervise the children as they play and:
- Keep younger children separated from older ones.
- Insist that they slide feet first or sit up instead of lying down head-first to minimize head injuries.
- Let them wear a helmet when sledding.
- Keep them away from crowded areas when sledding.
- Ensure their sleds are structurally sound and don't have sharp edges and splinters. The steering mechanism should have proper lubrication to prevent mechanical accidents.
- Sled slopes should be well-covered in snow, not too steep, and end with a flat runoff. Avoid those covered in ice.
- Don't let your child use inner tubes or snow disks. They should use steerable sleds instead.
Ice Hockey and Ice Skating
These are excellent cold-weather activities but call for practical winter safety tips to help your children avoid sporting injuries.
- Ensure your children only skate on approved surfaces. The local police and recreational departments usually post signs about the approved areas. If they're not available, you can call the police department to obtain information.
- Advise your children to only skate in the same direction as everyone else. It's also essential that they don't dart across the ice, chew gum or candy while skating, or skate alone.
- Let them wear a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. It is especially crucial if they're still learning the sport.
Snow Skiing and Snowboarding
Before your children hit the slopes with a snowboard or ski, ensure they're wearing helmets and protective goggles. It's also essential that:
- Your children take lessons from a certified snowboarding or skiing instructor. Remember that coordination may not fully develop until a child is about ten years of age.
- The skiers' safety bindings (the attachment securing the ski boot to the ski) get an annual inspection.
- All snowboarders use gloves with built-in wrist guards.
- All equipment is age-appropriate.
- You never leave young children to ski or snowboard alone.
- Your kids learn how to control their speed while skiing, as most injuries come from losing control. Fatigue and stunts can also result in injuries.
- You remind your children to keep off icy hills as they increase the risk of falls and injuries. Instead, let them stay in open ski areas and marked trails.
Snowballing has become a favorite pastime activity for many during winter. However, the APA recommends that children under 16 years of age don't operate snowmobiles. Children under the age of 6 should not ride on snowmobiles. Other winter safety tips for kids to help keep your child safe when snowballing include:
- Everyone should wear goggles and the proper helmet approved for motorized vehicles.
- Only operate at a reasonable and prudent speed for all trail conditions.
- Never operate a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol.
- When crossing the roadway, always check to see that both directions are clear.
- If you want to snowmobile in frozen water bodies, do so with extra caution.
- Understand how your machine works and its capabilities.
- Maintain respect for other snowmobiles and give the right of way.
- Travel in groups and only follow a group that you know where it is going.
General Winter Safety Tips for Winter Play
Active games during winter like building snowmen and making snow angels help to keep your child warm. However, you must teach them essential rules to observe during winter play:
- Don't eat snow as it can be dirty and contaminated.
- Avoid putting metal objects in the mouth. Lips and tongues can freeze to the metal, causing injury that they may not decipher immediately.
- Don't play on roadside snowbanks, as drivers and snowplow drivers may not easily spot them.
- While building forts and tunnels can be a lot of fun, an adult must supervise the activity. Forts and tunnels can easily collapse on kids and suffocate them.
- Never aim snowballs at people or cars. They're dangerous, especially when the snow is hard-packed or icy. The safest place to throw them is at neutral targets like trees.
- Be extra careful when crossing roads. Drivers may not see kids playing if their windows are frosty or snowy. It can also be challenging to stop on icy roads.
- Keep them away from fences, roads, and water.
- Don't send your children out to play when the temperature is below 16 degrees.
- Even though it's cloudy, it's vital to apply sunscreen to protect the skin from exposure to weather elements.
During an Emergency
Kids have a higher risk of frostbite and frostnip than adults. The best way to protect them is to ensure they're warmly dressed and don't stay outside for long in extreme weather. Frostnip is one of the early warning signs of the onset of frostbite.
It makes the skin red, tingly, or numb. In severe cases, the affected areas become cold and turn yellowish-gray or white. Call your doctor immediately or take your child to the nearest hospital when this happens.
Contributing Writer: Michael Brom Sr.