Winter isn't a time to just stay indoors and wait for
spring. There's a whole wonderland of
out there for the entire family - sledding, snowmobiling, and
snowboarding, to mention a few. Plus, someone has to shovel the
Once outdoors, however, you may need to take extra steps to keep
your family safe in the cold. In ice and snow, accidents can occur
easily, and before you know it, you may be on your way to the
There are ways to keep safe - and stay fit - during the cold
months. By following a few tips, you can have a great time, no
matter how much white stuff piles up outside.
Why Is It Important to Be Safe in the Cold?
Certain injuries are more common in the winter because of
special cold-weather activities. Activities like ice-skating,
sledding, snowboarding, and skiing lead to the most accidents and
injuries in the winter, and often it's children who get
Now that snowboarding is drawing more kids out in the cold
weather, emergency rooms are seeing more abdominal, head, and neck
injuries in those who run into trees or large rocks while
It's not just winter sports that send people to the hospital
. Certain illnesses are more common when the seasons change.
Respiratory illnesses, especially viruses like the
, are particularly prevalent during this time of year. That's
because everyone spends more time indoors in chilly weather,
exposing themselves to more germs in the air.
On the Home Front
One way to stay healthy while cooped up inside is to make sure
your family washes their hands. It's especially important to
wash after sharing toys,
, and blowing a runny nose to help prevent the spread of
Otherwise, it's difficult to avoid getting sick. People who
well may be less likely to get sick because their bodies are more
resistant to viruses and other
, including bacteria.
Decided you've had enough of the indoors and you're
going to get the family outside to shovel the snow? Fine, but take
care. Snow shoveling is strenuous work. It's OK for older,
school-age kids to help out, but young children should not be
shoveling because they can strain their muscles from lifting heavy
shovels full of snow.
Younger or older, kids sometimes have a tough time knowing when
to come inside from the cold. To nip
in the bud, check on your kids regularly to make sure that mittens
are dry and warm and noses aren't too red.
Braving the Cold
If you're going outside in the cold, stay safe - and warm.
Make sure your kids have a snack before going out. The calories
will give their bodies energy in the cold weather.
And protect your kids' faces with sunscreen. Even though the
idea of a sunburn in January can seem odd, snow can reflect up to
85% of the
sun's ultraviolet rays
Kids should dress warmly using layers of clothes - but not
before using the bathroom! If the top layer gets wet from snow or
freezing rain, they can peel off some clothes down to a dry
Avoid cotton clothing because it won't keep the kids very
warm. Stick with wool or other fabrics. Dress them in long
underwear, a turtleneck, and a sweater and coat. Add more layers
depending on the temperature. Waterproof pants and jackets are
great top layers because they don't let the wetness seep into
the other clothing. The cold-weather ensemble wouldn't be
complete without warm socks and boots to keep feet dry and a hat to
top it off.
There's no set amount of time children should be allowed to
stay out in the cold. However, when being cold becomes unpleasant,
it's time to go inside. Sometimes, though, kids may just need
some dry gloves. It helps to have an extra pair of gloves or
mittens tucked into their pockets if they plan to be outdoors for a
If your kids decide to go sledding on their own for the day,
make sure you know about the hill where they will be playing. Is it
steep or covered with trees? If so, it's not a good location
for sledding. Also, watch out for hills where there are rocks or
those that are near busy roads.
Sledding injuries can be very serious, resulting in
, neck trauma, and broken bones. In serious injuries, there often
is internal bleeding and abdominal trauma, which is why it's a
good idea to supervise when your kids are sledding.
Ice-skating and ice hockey are great cold-weather activities,
but they require safety smarts. Make sure your children avoid
by wearing supportive and properly fitted skates. In addition,
rinks are always safer than ponds for skating. If you only have
access to a pond, check the thickness of the ice yourself to
prevent falls through the ice and supervise your children while
Snowmobiling is more popular than ever, and the machines also go
faster than ever. When snowmobiling, follow these safety steps:
- Travel in groups and make sure someone knows where the
snowmobilers are going.
- Know your machine and its capabilities.
- Respect snowmobilers and yield to those who have the right of
- If it's necessary to snowmobile on frozen bodies of
water, do so with extra caution.
- When crossing a roadway, make sure the way is clear in both
- Operate at a reasonable and prudent speed for trail
- Remember that
and snowmobiles don't mix.
What to Do in an Emergency
Children are at greater risk for frostnip and frostbite than
adults, and the best way to prevent it is to make sure kids are
dressed warmly and that they don't spend too much time in
Frostnip is an early warning sign of the onset of frostbite. It
leaves the skin white and numb. After bringing your child inside,
remove all wet clothing because it draws heat from the body.
Immerse the chilled body parts in warm (not hot) water - 104 to 108
degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 42 degrees Celsius) - until they are able
to feel sensation again.
Frostbite occurs mostly on fingers, toes, ears, noses, and
cheeks. The area becomes very cold and turns white or yellowish
gray. If you notice frostbite, take your child immediately to the
nearest hospital emergency room.
Going on a road trip over the holidays? Make sure you have a
, extra blankets, and gloves in the car.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.