Keep the Chill Out – Wintertime Indoor Safety Tips
Watch out for winter weather
While it can be fun to enjoy the snow or bundle up for the cold outdoors, when you come inside to warm up, you want to leave the winter weather out! Cold temperatures can pose a threat to health and safety, especially in children, both inside and outside the home. It is important to be prepared and to protect your family safely against the chill.
Tips for a safe and warm home
- Be prepared for surprises. Heavy snow, strong winds, and icy conditions can all cause loss of electricity, which for many people means loss of heat. Make sure you are prepared with water and snacks, extra blankets, battery powered clock and radio, extra batteries, and flashlights or candles and matches. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, keep some wood in a safe but accessible place. If you decide to use either of these structures, a portable kerosene heater, or to light a candle, do not leave children alone in a room with any of these and keep them out of reach. If you do not have any means of heating your home in a long power outage, have a plan for where you and your family might be able to go.
- Know what to do on the road. Not only should you prepare your home the winter, but you should prepare your car, as well. If there is a snowstorm and your car gets stuck, have a portable shovel, windshield scraper, map, compass, and bag of sand (to pour on ice) on hand. Keep a mobile phone and the number for a tow service or garage on hand, as well the number of a friend or relative. Keep some water, snacks, diapers if necessary, any medications, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and extra blankets to keep warm in case you have to wait in the car. And most importantly, remember to never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute! See OneToughJob’s fact sheets Buckle Them Up – Child Passenger Safety Information, Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car – In Cold Weather, and Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car – In Warm Weather for more information.
- Keep the heat in. If you have young children, it is important to keep them warm. Young children, especially infants, lose body heat easily and do not make as much as adults. Keep an eye on your child’s body temperature and the temperature in your home during cold weather. If you use a fireplace or wood stove, make sure you get your chimney cleaned and inspected each year. Make sure the flue is open and that there is proper venting to the outside before lighting these. Do not burn paper in the fireplace. If you use a space heater, make sure it has been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company, and do not leave it close to anything that can catch fire, like bedding, curtains, or furniture. Do not leave young children unattended in a room where there is a fireplace, wood stove, candle, or space heater.
- Keep carbon monoxide out. It is required in Massachusetts to have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home in addition to a smoke detector. The CDC recommends that you test these devices monthly and change the batteries twice a year. If either of these alarms goes off, call 911 immediately and open a window, move to an area with fresh air, or leave the house. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Also keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Do away with dryness. Children’s skin can get especially dry during the wintertime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children, especially infants, do not need to bathe every day in the winter. Be sure to use moisturizer on your child after a bath to keep skin from getting dry. If your child consistently has a stuffy nose at night or frequent nosebleeds, you may have the heat on too high. Heat can cause dryness, so try lowering the heat just a bit and putting an extra layer on your child. At night, consider using a humidifier to ease your child’s discomfort.
- Baby's first winter. There are so many things to keep in mind when there is a new baby in the home. The winter can be especially stressful for first-time parents. You do need to pay extra attention to your baby’s body temperature, because infants lose body heat very easily, and cannot shiver to make some more. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be put to sleep in one piece sleepers, and that blankets, pillows, and other loose bedding be kept out of the cradle or crib because it can smother a baby and contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If necessary, use a light baby blanket no higher than your baby’s chest and tuck it into the crib mattress. In an emergency, use your own body heat to keep your infant warm until you can get her to a warm place. When traveling in the car with your infant, heat the car, bring her to it in outdoor wear, and then remove her from any snowsuits or jackets before putting her in the car seat. When you put your baby in the car seat with her winter gear on, you will have to loosen the straps of the seat to accommodate her extra layers. However, during the course of the ride, the extra clothing may be pressed down and cause the straps to loosen, offering your baby less protection in case of an accident.
For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Winter Weather Safety Guide.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.