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Winter Weather Safety Tips from Dr. Holly Serk

Winter Weather Safety

By Dr. Holly Serk

When the weather outside becomes frightful, finding ways to keep your family safe, healthy and happily entertained can be challenging! Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Can it be too cold to go outside?
There is no set guideline for when to avoid the outdoors, although temperatures below -10 degrees Fahrenheit can result in frostbite in just minutes and should be avoided. The key is making sure your child has a warm place to come in out of the cold periodically and that they are appropriately dressed for the elements

  • All body parts need covered to avoid frostbite
  • Dress in layers that can be removed if they become wet. Dry clothing is a must to avoid frostbite/hypothermia. Extra mittens and socks should be readily available
  • Provide boots that are large enough to accommodate 2 pairs of socks

Infants:

  • Dress little ones in thin, snug layers for car seat rides. Avoid bulky coats/clothing and never place blankets between your baby and car seat straps
  • Avoid loose bedding. Warm, one-piece sleepers and wearable wraps should be used in place of blankets to help prevent SIDS

Toddlers:

  • Avoid drawstrings on clothing as these can become caught up on trees and equipment

Don’t forget about the sun!

  • Snow reflects up to 85% of UV rays. Cover exposed areas with sunscreen and wear sunglasses

Hypothermia

  • Children are more vulnerable than adults
  • Signs: shivering, lethargy, clumsiness, slurred speech

If you suspect hypothermia:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Go to a warm location
  • Remove wet clothing. Wrap in blankets/warm clothes

Frostbite

  • Generally occurs on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose
  • Early signs: red, tingly skin, followed by gray and painful and finally white, cold and hard without pain
  • If you are concerned about frost bite, seek medical attention immediately
  • Place frostbitten areas in warm (NOT hot) water
  • Do NOT rub the frozen areas

Winter activities

  • Sledding: Avoid hills with rocks and stay away from busy roads. Children less than 5 should not sled alone. Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first may prevent head injuries
  • Ice skating: Always check ponds for signs or call the local recreation departments to ensure the ice is thick enough and never skate alone
  • Skiing/snowboarding: Always wear helmets and goggles. A qualified instructor in a program designed for children is ideal.

Winter Health

  • Get the flu shot! Children 6 months and older should be vaccinated. 80% of influenza illness generally occurs January through March so it’s not too late!
  • Teach your children to wash their hands regularly and sneeze/cough into the bend of their arm.
  • Winter is the most common time for carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing monitors outside of bedrooms can help keep your family safe.

About the Author

Holly Serk, MD is a board certified pediatrician with Pediatric Associates in Topeka, Kansas. She received her medical degree from University of Kansas.