Winter is usually pretty mild in Northwest Arkansas, so it’s easy to lose sight of winter weather safety. Here are some things to keep in mind about winter weather safety for kids.
It’s important for children to be bundled up in cold weather, even if they assure you that they do not need a jacket. Layers are the way to go. Wearing layers helps them regulate their body temperatures to respond to changing temperatures throughout the day and to different levels of physical activity. Children typically need to wear more layers than an adult.
Be sure to insulate the extremities. Have kids wear warm socks, gloves or mittens, and a hat when spending time outside to maintain as much body heat as possible. It’s not true that you lose a majority of your body heat through your head, but the extremities do tend to feel cold more quickly than the other parts of the body.
A nice warm scarf is a great way to beat the cold, but make sure that the scarf is safely secured. That goes for all winter gear, and it’s especially important if play includes bikes or playground equipment. A flowing scarf or dangling drawstring can get snagged and lead to choking or strangulation.
Keep an eye on how long children play outside in cold weather. Kids might prefer to keep playing even if they are cold, and they might not choose to voluntarily return to the warmth indoors.
Be especially mindful of kids in wet or soggy conditions. Cold and wet do not mix well. Hypothermia happens when body temperatures fall below normal. This is precipitated when they’re exposed to moisture in cold temperatures, and hypothermia can occur in children much more quickly than in it occurs in adults. Make sure your children don’t stay outside too long, and make sure they remove wet clothing and dry off as soon as they enter the house. Also, watch for signs of hypothermia such as lethargy, shivering, slurred speech, and poor motor skill function. Seek immediate medical attention if your child is suffering hypothermia.
Keep kids hydrated. Dehydration is just as real in the winter as any other time of the year. Children might not get as thirsty during the winter, but they are still losing fluids that need to be replenished. Make sure that you provide your kids with adequate water, especially when they are exerting themselves physically.
People associate sunburns with summer time, but the sun can still damage your child’s skin even on a cloudy winter day. While there won’t be much skin exposed, it’s important to apply sunscreen on areas such as the face that will remain uncovered, especially if you’re spending a long time outdoors.
Of course there are other things to keep in mind about winter weather safety for kids that don’t hinge on playing outdoors.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bathing your baby two to three times a week is adequate for the first year. More frequent bathing can dry out your baby’s skin, especially during the winter.
Some children are prone to nosebleeds during the winter. Cold, dry winter air can dry out nasal tissues, which can cause nosebleeds. Try adding a humidifier to your child’s bedroom, or meet with your primary care physician to see if a nasal spray or drops are right for your child.
While winter weather doesn’t cause the flu, winter is typically the peak season for influenza. Make sure your child is protected. Practicing good hygiene such as regular hand washing and getting your child vaccinated are two very important ways to maintain good health during the winter. Children older than 6 months need an annual flu vaccination.