winter safety tips for kidsWinter can be a season of great fun for children: building snowmen, sledding, zipping around on ice skates and more. Here’s how you can keep your children safe and feeling good while they play outdoors.

First, it’s hard to have fun when you don’t feel well. Fortunately, the Cleveland Clinic provides great tips on how to help keep your children healthy during winter months. Step one is to dispel a commonly held belief: that cold weather causes colds. In reality, most colds are caused by viruses, ones we are more commonly exposed to in the wintertime. Plus, colds are more easily spread when school is in session, as children spread the viruses to one another through droplets sneezed into the air and through hand contact.

So, help prevent colds and the flu with these simple steps.

  1. Wash hands with soap and water. Here are hand-washing tips from another Horizon blog post.
  2. Teach your children to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing using the bend of their elbows.
  3. Keep vaccinations current, including the flu shot if your child is 6 months or older.

More Winter Safety Tips for Kids

preparing kids for cold outdoor play

Dress your child appropriately in winter with the American Association of Pediatrics guidelines. An easy rule of thumb to follow is to dress children in several thin layers when going outside, using one layer more than an adult would wear. Choose warm boots large enough that, if your child needs to wear two pairs of socks, the fit is still comfortable. Warm gloves or mittens are important, as is a warm hat.

Remove drawstrings and replace them with Velcro. This will prevent injuries from drawstrings getting caught on tree branches or other items.

Watch for signs of hypothermia. This is when your child’s body temperature drops below normal, usually occurring in extremely cold weather conditions, especially if your child isn’t dressed warmly enough or clothing gets wet. Signs include shivering, lethargy and clumsiness. If body temperature drops even further, your child may slur his or her speech. If you notice these symptoms, call 911 immediately and then remove wet clothing. Wrap him or her in warm clothing and blankets until help arrives.

Also watch for frostbite, especially on your child’s fingers, toes, nose and ears. The skin first looks red and will tingle. As skin turns gray, your child will experience pain; if it becomes white, cold and hard, the pain will disappear. As skin thaws, blisters appear. To prevent frostbite, dress your child in appropriate layers throughout his or her body, and bring him or her inside if the temperature drops too far or your child’s clothing gets wet. If you suspect frostbite, place affected parts in warm (not hot) water (no rubbing!) and treat the pain that occurs as the skin warms with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Cover your child with blankets and give him or her a warm drink. Seek medical care immediately if blisters appear.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine also offers winter safety tips, which include incorporating a buddy system when your children are playing outside. Never let them play outside alone; children under the age of 8 need to be especially well supervised. Periodically check to ensure your children are dry and warm enough. Young children should come inside for breaks where you provide warm drinks. Teach your children to NOT play near roads, fences or standing water. Appropriate places to play should be near available warm shelter. This article also contains specific safety tips for skating, sledding, skiing, snowboarding and more.