Winter Safety for Kids

Winter is an especially challenging season for parents. Besides the usual outbreaks of colds, sore throats and the like, there are also risks like frost bite, hypothermia and head injuries. While the first two seem like obvious cold weather problems, head injuries might not. But the fact is that toddlers and small children are physically predisposed to head injuries due to their smaller frames and disproportionately large heads. Just think gravity. This becomes even more problematic when you add a child’s underdeveloped balance and motor control, poor impulse control and the inability to understand consequences. Then put all that on slick surface.

Maneuvering on slippery sidewalks is not the only potential threat to children. While learning to ice-skate or sliding in the back yard kids can sustain serious head injuries (for the reasons already mentioned).

Sliding and tubing sites should be scrutinized by parents before they are used by the kids. No sliding run should course down to a street or parking lot. Check the hill for tree stumps, large rocks and bushes. Deep snow covers impediments that can be disastrous if struck by a child streaking down the hill. Use common sense by restricting small children to gentler slopes and having them ride with an adult.

Patrolling the site for danger is just one step in winter safety, another is the use of helmets. Even a well-fit bicycle helmet (over the stocking cap) provides adequate protection for ice-skating, tubing, and sliding. Older children who play ice hockey, or engage in any down-hill sports like alpine skiing and snow-boarding need helmets designed specifically for those sports.

Preventing frost bite and hypothermia has become easier with the advent of super insulating materials. Boots with removable liners are an excellent choice since the liners can be removed and dried out when not in use. Keeping your child dry is one of the first and most important rules of safe winter dressing. Just like sweating cools us down in summer, getting wet in winter speeds the loss of body heat and can lead to painful frost bite or worse, hypothermia.

Not surprisingly children’s small size works against them here, too. They are far more susceptible to frost bite and hypothermia than adults and teens. Dressing in layers, with fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin, and replacing wet layers with dry garments is recommended.

Whenever children are playing outdoors in cold weather, parents should be checking them periodically to make sure that their clothing is still dry and that exposed areas of skin are not showing signs of frost bite or the less-serious frost nip.

Exhausted bodies lose heat quickly and this is something that parents need to monitor because kids are reluctant to stop playing when they are having fun and they are not always able to tell when they are tired and need to come in to warm up.

All in all, by following a few simple rules; planning ahead; and using common sense parents and caregivers can keep kids active and free of serious injuries this winter.

An active lifestyle is the best way to fight the national epidemic of childhood obesity. Best way to get your kids on track? Set the example with your participation, and whenever possible use outdoor activities for family time.This is especially true during the colder months when it is easy to slip into the video, television and computer routine without even realizing it.Here are some things even a family on a budget can do to keep active and engaged in cold climate regions. Here in the Twin Cities these two websites are full of great ideas:www.minneapolisparks.org
www.stpaul.gov/parksThey provide dates, times, information about fees (when applicable), and everything else you need to find fun activities all winter long:

  • Ice-skating at a rink, pond or lake
  • Snowshoeing anywhere, anytime
  • Cross Country Skiing rent skis first, to see if your family takes to this sport.
  • Make a Snowman absolutely free and any number can play
  • Sliding and tubing there are many free sites around town.
  • Ice fishing:  join the die-hard sportsmen who don’t give up.
  • Building a snow fort or snow castle(you decide if snowballs will fly)
  • Hiking and Biking on cleared trails designed for these activities

Don’t forget a thermos of your family’s favorite hot beverage

Bring extra mittens, hats, socks and scarves.

Come home to a hot pot of soup or chili and piping hot corn bread

What Does Frost Bite Look Like?Skin will appear very red and swollen, sometimes with a white overcast. In the aftermath, blisters (resembling second degree burns) might develop. Affected areas will be very painful and sensitive to touch. Skin cells and possibly nerve cells are damaged.What Should I do for Frost Bite?
First, call your pediatrician or emergency medical center. Follow the directions you are given. Treatment usually includes warming the body but not placing heat directly on the frostbitten skin. Never rub snow on skin.What is Frost Nip?
Frost nip is essentially the same as frost bite but with less extensive damage. With frost nip, skin will appear red and swollen, but treatment is usually unnecessary for recovery.If you are unsure, call for a medical opinion.
What should I Know About Hypothermia?People lose a great deal of heat through their heads so once again, children, with a larger head-to-body ratio, can become hypothermic more quickly than adults.Body temperatures below 35°C (95°F) are considered hypothermic and need immediate assistance.If you suspect your child’s body temperature has dropped too low, get her inside to prevent further body heat loss and call your pediatrician or an emergency medical center and follow their instructions. You will be given directions on how best to begin warming your child before help arrives.Symptoms:
Shivering
Cold, pale, fry skin
Listlessness or confusion
Failing consciousness
Slow, shallow breathing
Weakening pulse