Winter Weather Woes

Winter Weather Woes; Safety for your child in the cold.
By Natalia Darling, PA-C
The DMV area has finally been hit by their first snowfall of the season.  To children, snowstorms bring excitement of sledding, snowball fights, and days off of school.  At Potomac Pediatrics, we think about the safety of all our patients during cold and winter weather conditions.  Here are some tips to keep your children safe when it is below freezing.
How do I keep my kid warm?

  • Dressing children in layers in several thin but warm layers is best.  Avoid cotton as wool and other fabrics retain heat better. The general rule of thumb for infants and younger children that we suggest is to dress them in one additional layer than that which an older child or adult needs to stay warm in whatever temperature we are experiencing. 
  • If you are transporting your child in a car seat in cold weather, always remember to remove their thick outerwear and coats when buckling them into car seats- thick clothing can decrease the efficacy of safety restraints and car seats.  Further questions on car safety?- click here to view our blog post
  •  If children are playing outside, be sure to check that socks and gloves are dry regularly and that noses aren’t getting too red, as sometimes children do not know when they should come in to warm up to avoid frostbite. Encourage them to have a snack prior to going out so their bodies have fuel to keep them warm.
  • Remember that the safest sleeping environment for an infant is one that is WITHOUT blankets, pillows, quilts, fleeces or other loose bedding equipment or accessories- dress them instead in a sleep sack or a wearable blanket.

Winter sports and activities:

  • When sledding, skiing, snowboarding, playing ice hockey and skating children should ALWAYS be wearing helmets to prevent head injuries and concussions.  
  • Children should only ice skate on approved and safe surface should skate with the crowd rather than against it, and should not chew gum or eat or be sucking on anything while skating. Depending on your skaters’ skill level, consider safety equipment such as helmets, elbow and knee pads. 
  • Sledding should be supervised by a parent or other responsible adult, and sledding should only occur in areas free of motor vehicles and away from any dangerous bodies of water.  To avoid head injuries sled feet first and head up rather than face first or lying down, use steerable sleds (rather than disks or inner tubes), and make sure sledding slopes are free of obstructions, not too steep, and end in a flat runoff.  Generally, it is best to separate older and younger children when sledding.
  • If you desire to take your child skiing or snowboarding- Children should have formalized instruction by a qualified instructor and should be supervised during their time on the mountain in a manner that is appropriate for their age. Check every year that your child’s equipment still fits appropriately and is still in good working condition.  Helmets should be required at most slopes, but even if they are not it is highly encouraged that you still use one. Eye protection/goggles should also be used.  In addition, to prevent one of the most common skiing or snowboarding injuries, wrist guards are manufactured in many sizes to protect against wrist fractures.
  • Remember that snow is very reflective of light and it is very easy to get sunburnt when spending time outside after being cooped up during the winter months- wear sunscreen.
  • If you’re getting the whole family involved in snow shoveling, make sure that exercise caution as snow shoveling can be physically demanding and strenuous work. Older school-age children can shovel, but it is easy for younger children to strain muscles when attempting to shovel.

Click here to view our blog post on Getting Ahead of Head Injuries.
Does going outside in cold weather cause my child to get sick? No!!! This is something our grandparents told our parents, and then our parents told us.  This common misconception is caused because common cold’s and upper respiratory infections are much more common in the winter months, which happen to be the colder months out of the year.  Your child is not sick because they spent too much time playing in the snow, they are sick because they were exposed to and picked up a virus from anywhere in our community. Is your child suffering from cold symptoms? Click here to view our blog post on the common cold.
Do you have questions about cold weather safety? Are you worried that your child has become too cold or is suffering from frostbite? Has your child suffered a winter sports-related injury? If so then contact us today to inquire about whether your child needs to be seen by one of our providers.