Winter fun for kids poses potential hazards

January 22, 2016 | by George Aghia, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

While grown-ups may grumble about shoveling snow and scraping car windows, what kid doesn't love a good snowfall? Little ones beg to stay outside building snowmen despite the cold, and older kids can't wait to head off to the local hill for sledding or other activities.

Parents should keep in mind the following winter safety tips, whether your kids are playing outside or staying cozy by the fire.

When the "weather outside is frightful:"

  • Protect your children from frostbite and hypothermia in frigid weather by having them come indoors regularly to warm up. Remind them to keep their hands, feet and head covered while they're outdoors. Some parents slip hand and foot warmers in their kids’ gloves and boots on those extra cold days.
  • Educate your kids about the dangers of ponds that may only be covered with thin ice. Make sure they skate only on surfaces that have been officially designated as safe.
  • Snowboarders in the Midwest often deal with a hard icy surface, rather than a cushion of snow.  Your snowboarders should have and wear appropriate helmets to protect from head injuries.
  • Teach safe sledding. Choose sledding sites that are clear of rocks, trees and possible landings in traffic. Remind your kids to wait until the sledder ahead of them has cleared the path before heading down the hill.
  • Review safe winter driving techniques with the newer drivers in the family. This includes slowing down and driving cautiously, and not letting the gas tank get too low. Keep the car well maintained, and have sand or kitty litter in the car to spread for traction if it becomes stuck in the snow.
  • Sunny and windy winter days can do a number on your skin. Use sunscreen with zinc oxide to help protect from sunburn and wind burn.

Cozy days at home:

  • January is a good time to check those CO2 and smoke detectors, and to make sure your children know what to do if they smell smoke or detect a fire.
  • Heated indoor air can make your kids more vulnerable to respiratory infections and dry skin conditions, such as eczema. Keep your home humidifier well maintained, and add room humidifiers as needed. Make sure your kids get their flu shots, and have moisturizers readily available.
  • Some emotional problems, such as depression, can peak during the dark months of winter. If bad weather leads to more time at home as a family, take advantage of the opportunity to talk with your kids about what's going on in their lives. Share any concerns you have about changes in their behavior or moods. Let them know you are there to listen.

A dose of prevention can help keep your children out of the ER this winter, prepared to fully enjoy the fun and beauty of the season.

Do you have any winter safety tips to add to this list? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the below comments!

Learn about pediatric emergency care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

George Aghia, M.D., is a board certified family medicine physician with Edward Medical Group.

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