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Fun without the Frostbite – Wintertime Outdoor Safety Tips

Winter Wonderland

Children spend a lot of time outside during the winter months. Whether your child is waiting for the bus or building a snowman, be careful when sending him outside. Cold temperatures can be especially harsh on children. Here is some advice on how to keep your child warm, dry, and healthy this winter.

Safety tips for outdoor fun

Bundle them up. Whether your child is going out to play or waiting for the bus, the cold can really get to her. Children should be dressed in several thin layers of clothing to keep them dry and warm. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing children in one more layer of clothing than you yourself would wear. Make sure you send your child out with a hat that covers her ears (50% of body heat is lost through the head), and wearing waterproof boots with enough room to wiggle her toes. If your child is going outside to play and might get wet, avoid dressing her in cotton clothing, as cotton does not absorb moisture or dry as easily as other materials. Make sure your child comes inside periodically to change wet accessories, such as gloves, hats, and socks, and send her to school, a friend’s house, or ski lessons with extras of these. If it is a sunny day and she will be spending time outdoors, apply sunscreen. The sun, especially when it reflects off snow, can still cause sunburn in the winter.

Hold off hypothermia. If your child is playing outside, make sure he comes inside periodically to warm up, and set a limit on the amount of time he can be outside. Hypothermia is when a child’s body temperature falls below normal. It often occurs when children play outside in extremely cold weather for extended periods of time or without proper clothing. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, tiredness, clumsiness, and slurred speech. If you think your child might have hypothermia, change him into warm clothes, wrap him in blankets, and bring him to a doctor.

Prevent frostbite. Frostbite occurs when skin, especially on fingers, toes, ears, and noses, becomes frozen, pale, gray, or blistered and burns or feels numb. If you think your child has frostbite, place the affected parts in warm (not hot) water, or apply warm water to them with a washcloth. Do not rub the frozen areas. Warm your child up with dry clothes and blankets, and give him a warm drink. If the numbness persists, bring him to a doctor.

Watch out for winter sports. Winter comes once a year, and some activities are just too fun to not take part in! Here are some things to keep in mind before sending your child out to take part in the fun:

  • Skating. Both children and adults should only skate in approved areas. Look for signs saying it is safe to skate before getting on the ice. Public indoor or outdoor rinks, even if they are crowded, are preferable to private lakes and ponds. Children should always be supervised while on the ice, and should follow any rules, such as skating in a certain direction. Make sure your child wears skates that fit well and are comfortable to avoid injuries and falls.
  • Skiing/snowboarding. Children should take lessons from a qualified instructor before participating in these winter sports. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 7 years of age refrain from snowboarding. Make sure your child wears a helmet and has equipment that fits him properly and is not loose or broken. Children should only ski or snowboard on hills consistent with their abilities, and only in places where conditions are not icy. It is also recommended that both children and adults wear helmets.
  • Sledding. Although sledding is fun, free, and is usually not far from home, it is dangerous if certain precautions are not taken. Children should not sled near the main road, and sledding surfaces should be clear of all obstructions, such as fences. Beware of icy spots under the snow. Children should be supervised while sledding, and should sled feet first or sitting up to prevent head injuries.
  • Snow play. While it is fun and creative to make snow forts in snow banks and engage in snowball fights, children should play in a safe area where they can be seen by drivers and supervised by an adult. Snow forts and snow tunnels can collapse and suffocate children, and snowballs can be hard and icy and cause injuries. Do not stop your child from enjoying wintertime fun. However, talk to her about having fun in the snow while being safe.

For more information, look at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Winter Safety Tips.


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