Whether winter brings severe storms, light dustings or
just cold temperatures, the American
Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) has some valuable tips on how to keep your children safe and warm. Please feel free to excerpt these tips or use them
in their entirety for any print or broadcast story, with acknowledgment of
What to Wear
- Dress infants
and children warmly for outdoor activities.
Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don’t forget warm
boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.
- The rule of thumb for older babies and young
children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would
wear in the same conditions.
- Blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins
and other loose bedding should be kept out of an infant’s sleeping environment
because they are associated with suffocation deaths and may contribute to
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Sleep clothing like one-piece sleepers or
wearable blankets is preferred.
- If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping
infant warm, it should be tucked in around the crib mattress, reaching only as
far as the baby’s chest, so the infant's face is less likely to become covered
by bedding materials.
- Hypothermia develops when a
child's temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures.
It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather
without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. It can occur more
quickly in children than in adults.
- As hypothermia sets in, the
child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body
temperature will decline in more severe cases.
- If you suspect your child is
hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove
any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.
- Frostbite happens when the
skin and outer tissues become frozen.
This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes,
ears and nose. They may become pale, gray
and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that his/her skin burns
or has become numb.
- If frostbite occurs, bring
the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot)
water. 104° Fahrenheit (about the
temperature of most hot tubs) is recommended. Warm washcloths may be applied to
frostbitten nose, ears and lips.
- Do not rub the frozen
- After a few minutes, dry and
cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to
- If the numbness continues
for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.
- If your child suffers
from winter nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in the child's
room at night. Saline nose drops or petrolatum may help keep nasal tissues
moist. If bleeding is severe or recurrent, consult your pediatrician.
- Many pediatricians feel
that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant’s first
year. More frequent baths may dry out the skin, especially during the
- Cold weather does not
cause colds or flu. But the viruses
that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when
children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching your
child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow may help reduce the
spread of colds and flu.
- Children 6 months of
age and up should get the influenza vaccine to reduce their risk of
catching the flu.
Sports and Activities
reasonable time limits on outdoor play to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Have children come inside periodically to
alcohol or drugs before any winter activity, like snowmobiling or skiing, is
dangerous and should not be permitted in any situation.
- Allow children to skate
only on approved surfaces. Check
for signs posted by local police or recreation departments, or call your
local police department to find out which areas have been approved.
- Advise your child to:
- Skate in the same
direction as the crowd
- Avoid darting across
- Never skate alone
- Not chew gum or eat
candy while skating
- Consider having your
child wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads, especially while learing to skate
- Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.
- Children should be supervised while sledding.
- Keep young children separated from older
- Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of
lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.
- Consider having your child wear a helmet while
- Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes.
- Sleds should be structurally sound and free of
sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well
- Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like
trees or fences, be covered in snow not ice, not be too steep (slope of less
than 30º), and end with a flat runoff.
- Avoid sledding in crowded areas.
Snow Skiing and Snowboarding
- Children should be taught to ski or snowboard
by a qualified instructor in a program designed for children.
- Never ski or snowboard alone.
- Young children should always be supervised by
an adult. Older children’s need for
adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If older children are not with an adult,
they should always at least be accompanied by a friend.
- All skiers and snowboarders should wear helmets.
Ski facilities should require helmet use, but if they do not, parents
should enforce the requirement for their children.
- Equipment should fit the child. Skiers should
wear safety bindings that are adjusted at least every year. Snowboarders should
wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. Eye protection or goggles should
also be used.
- Slopes should fit the ability and experience of
the skier or snowboarder. Avoid crowded slopes.
- Avoid skiing in areas with trees and other
AAP recommends that children under age 16 not operate snowmobiles and that
children under age 6 never ride on snowmobiles.
not use a snowmobile to pull a sled or skiers.
goggles and a safety helmet approved for use on motorized vehicles like motorcycles.
snowmobile alone or at night.
on marked trails, away from roads, water, railroads and pedestrians.
The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter,
especially when they reflect off snow. Make
sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen and consider using
Winter is a time when household fires occur. It is a good
time to remember to:
- Buy and install smoke alarms on every floor of
- Test smoke alarms monthly
- Practice fire drills with your children
- Install a carbon monoxide detector outside
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from
anything that could burn, and turn them off when leaving the room or sleeping
American Academy of Pediatrics, 1/14
National Fire Protection Agency, 11/12