Parents: Winter Safety Mistakes to Avoid
Winter weather offers up a host of exciting outdoor activities for kids to enjoy. And there’s the promise of cozy indoor snuggle time too. But there are a few common mistakes parents often make when it comes to keeping their kids safe in winter. Find out what they are — and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Putting your kid in a car seat with his coat on
Sure, colder temperatures demand warmer clothing. But take your child’s coat off before you buckle him into his car seat. “The coat could compress during a crash and actually make the harness system loose,” says Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, author of “The Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety” and executive director of The Safety Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to injury prevention and product safety.
If you’re worried the car isn’t warm enough for your baby, put a blanket over the car seat, says Schaefer-Wilson. But nothing, unless it came with the car seat, should go between the baby and the car seat harness. No bulky clothing, snowsuits, puffy or wooly coats or blankets. “You don’t want to inhibit the correct fit of the car seat.”
Mistake 2: Over- or under-dressing your kids
Too much warm and fuzzy clothing or outerwear can cause kids to overheat. Not enough, and they run the risk of heat loss or hypothermia. Teens are especially vulnerable in this area, as they so often balk at wearing bulky outerwear.
Make it easy on them. Give them layers that are light and comfortable. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing children for outdoor activities in materials that trap heat and absorb moisture, such as merino wool or polyester fleece. As children get sweaty, they can remove a layer; when they get cold again, they can add a layer.
Babies don’t move around much, so it’s tempting to throw on a few extra layers. But resist. Dress babies for the outdoors in one more layer than an adult would wear.
Mistake 3: Not applying sunscreen
Did you know your kids can get sunburned in winter? Apply (or have them apply) sunscreen every day, no matter the season.
“Sun damage is cumulative,” says Barbara Reed, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado Hospital, Denver. “Even though there is less skin exposed in the winter, and often less sun in the winter, the damage that occurs will build up over a lifetime.”
Your kids should get a good slathering of a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection 15 to 30 minutes before they head out for a winter activity.
Mistake 4: Over-bathing your baby
Dry skin is a common in winter thanks to cold, dry air. One way to combat it is to bathe your infant just two or three times a week. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that more frequent baths may dry out the skin. Use moisturizers to keep baby’s skin from becoming dry and itchy.
Mistake 5: Under-hydrating your kids
It’s important for kids to stay hydrated, even in winter. “Compared to adults, children are at increased risk of dehydration — and yes, it can and does happen even in cold temperatures,” writes public health expert Lindsay Hansen of SafeKids.org on her blog.
You might also consider running a humidifier in your child's room at night to help prevent nosebleeds and dry skin. Saline nose drops can also help.
Mistake 6: Giving them a flying saucer or toboggan
It’s fun to slide down a snowy hillside. The element of danger may be what makes it so thrilling. But for safety’s sake, give your children sleds they can steer. Don’t offer them coasters or toboggans. Sledders should sit upright, facing forward (never headfirst) as they go downhill. Children, especially those under 12, should wear fitted helmets.
Mistake 7: Letting kids use bad form while shoveling
Shoveling safety is not just for older folks with bad backs. Even kids can hurt their backs and necks while shoveling. Make sure your child bends his knees as he lifts the snow-laden shovel. That’s the best way to avoid injury according to the folks at Kidshealth.org. And make sure the shovel isn’t too full. Better still, have him push the snow out of the way rather than lift it.