For a pediatrician from California, the 40 degree January weather was almost like being home again. But the cold Wisconsin winter weather we know so well has finally arrived and there are a few important things to keep in mind when enjoying the best of the season.
Keep your infants and children warm by dressing them in layers. How do you know if your baby is warm enough? Generally, a good rule of thumb for older babies and children is to dress in one more layer than what an adult would need for adequate warmth.
Inside the house, remember crib safety for young infants. Avoid blankets, quilts, any loose bedding, stuffed animals and those kinds of things in the crib. Ideally, there should only be a proper-fitting crib sheet covering the mattress. If you feel like your baby needs something in addition to pajamas, consider one-piece sleepers available at stores, including the Kohl’s Safety Center at American Family Children’s Hospital. They can help keep infants warm safely.
When traveling by car, make sure your baby’s car seat straps fit snugly over the thicker clothing. Rather than wearing lots of heavy layers, consider adding a blanket over your infant for warmth.
Toddlers and Children
When dressing kids for the outdoors, remember that scarves can get caught and may cause injury. Consider using a neck warmer instead. As long as skin is covered from exposure, your child is ready for outdoor play.
Skiing, sledding, skating and even snowmobiling are great ways to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Help your child enjoy winter sports safely by encouraging a few rules:
- Dress properly and in layers
- Wear a helmet when skiing, snowboarding, sledding, playing ice hockey and even skating and make sure they fit properly
- Skate only in approved areas and never alone
- Always supervise children when they’re sledding
- Avoid sledding hills with slopes more than 30 degree and use steerable sleds without sharp edges – they’re safest
- Find qualified instructors for skiing and boarding
- ALWAYS wear a helmet when snowmobiling
- Children under 16 should not operate a snowmobile, and those under 6 should not ride on them
- When snowmobiling travel at safe speeds on clearly marked trails
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Hypothermia happens when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to cold temperatures. It can happen more quickly in children than in adults. If you suspect hypothermia, call 911.
Frostbite is when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. Your child may complain that his fingers, toes, ears or nose feel funny (numb) or the areas could look pale or blistered. If you suspect frostbite, bring your child inside and place the affected area in warm and not hot water. You can also use warm washcloths for this purpose. Then dry and cover him with warm blankets. Do not rub these areas. Call your doctor.
Finally, on these cold days, it can be hard to remember the negative aspects of the sun but please don’t forget your sunscreen for your child. Sun rays often off the snow and can cause sunburn.
Many pediatric illness occur during winter although not because of the cold weather but for other reasons including being in close contact with others. It is not too late to implement some of the preventive measures that really can help you and your family. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing to decrease the spread of disease. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Provide yourself with good nutrition and rest.
Enjoy this winter. Soon we will be talking about bike helmets.