As the weather turns chilly, new dangers for kids are appearing; but these winter safety tips for children can help keep them safe, warm and healthy through the coldest months of the year.
Why Winter can be Dangerous
Winter weather can be dangerous in several ways. The dropping temperatures and wind chills create climatic hazards, while the general indoor lethargy of winter can create health hazards due to overeating and less activity. Winter sports, holiday gifts and winter nutrition also present unique hazards that parents should be aware of in order to safeguard their children’s health and well-being. With careful planning and supervision, however, children can enjoy the fun and freedom of playing indoors or outdoors on chilly winter days without substantial risk.
Not every type of winter hazard is applicable to every child, but understanding the basic risks and how to minimize them can help parents protect their children from the ravages of winter.
The cold temperatures and biting winds are the most obvious hazards when children play in the snow. Children who are not prepared for winter climates can suffer frostbite, hypothermia and severe chills that can lead to illness, poor judgment and even permanent injury. To avoid the dangers of cold weather:
- Dress in multiple layers to play outside, including extra layers for legs, feet and hands.
- Always wear hats and gloves when playing outdoors in cold weather; the biggest proportions of body heat are lost through the head and hands.
- Limit the amount of time spent playing outdoors to safe intervals, and bring children inside periodically to warm up.
- Remove all wet clothing immediately and change to dry clothes if going back outdoors.
- Wear sunscreen on all exposed skin to guard against burns from bright sunlight and snow glare.
- Do not permit children to play outdoors in poor weather such as snowstorms, extreme cold or high winds.
- Wear brightly colored outer clothing that is easily seen from a distance.
- Do not dress children in winter wear with drawstrings – they can cut off circulation and make frostbite a greater threat, and loose drawstrings may present a strangulation hazard.
- Teach children to avoid playing near snowplow areas.
- Do not permit children to dig snow tunnels or forts that may collapse and bury them.
- Avoid snowball fights that can lead to injuries from dangerous projectiles.
- Keep roofs, gutters and awnings free from snow and icicle buildup that could collapse and injure a child. Similarly, do not permit children to pull icicles from the roof.
- Teach children never to touch or lick exposed metal (fences, flagpoles, etc.) in winter.
- Do not allow children to eat snow. It may contain pollutants, dirt, fecal matter or other contaminants, and the cold snow can chill a young child’s body to dangerous levels.
- Regularly de-ice or sand sidewalks, driveways, patios and other areas where children may play.
Winter sports can be a great way for children to stay active and enjoy colder temperatures, but each sport presents it own unique hazards. These winter safety tips for children can help them enjoy sports safely and comfortably.
- Always use proper safety equipment and gear, including sports gogglesand helmets, while playing winter sports.
- Engage in safe sports behavior such as following the rules of the game and eliminating horseplay that can lead to accidents and injuries.
- Enroll children in lessons from a qualified professional for advanced winter sports such as figure skating, skiing and snowboarding to ensure they learn safe techniques.
- Only play winter sports in safe, approved locations rather than using seemingly frozen ponds, unknown hillsides or other potentially dangerous locations.
The long days of winter often keep children indoors, which can lead to hours of inactivity. Furthermore, children are more likely to contract illnesses during the winter months because they are in more confined spaces. To stay healthy during the winter, consider these safety tips:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables.
- Teach children proper hand-washing techniques to kill germs and bacteria or use hand sanitizer if necessary.
- Keep children home from school and other public places if they are sick.
- Ask a pediatrician about the necessity for flu vaccines for young children.
Holiday Safety Tips
The holidays are a time of fun and excitement, but they can also be dangerous. Inappropriate toys, indulgent foods and unsafe decorations can create hazards that may cause injuries to children of all ages. These safety tips can help avoid the greatest risks:
- Do not use “candy” style ornaments or holiday decorations that may fool young children.
- Limit the amount of holiday sweets and treats children are allowed to eat.
- Choose unbreakable ornaments for safe tree decorations, and be sure no ornaments are small enough to be swallowed.
- Only give age-appropriate toys and gifts to children.
- Check toy recall notices for any holiday gift items.
The natural reaction to falling temperatures is to raise the heat, either through external, supplemental heaters or by turning on a fireplace or other open flames. These safety tips can keep away the winter chill without risk:
- Keep candles, kerosene lamps, and other open flames out of reach of children at all times.
- Do not put a space heater in a child’s room.
- Teach children fire safety procedures, including how to spot potential hazards.
- Do not allow children to play in fires such as roasting marshmallows in a fireplace.
- Practice family fire drills to reinforce safe behavior.
- Do not use electric blankets for young children.
By following the proper winter safety tips for children, parents can ensure that their sons and daughters will be warm, happy, and safe during the coldest months of the year, and seeing them enjoy winter safely will warm any parent’s heart.