Guest post by
Marianna Gagina, MD and Sharon Dembinski, RN, Memorial Hospital Primary Care, Conway NH.

Young boy playing in snow

Source: Pond5

With the winter solstice just behind us and months of cold weather to come, are you aware of the best way to keep your children safe?Memorial Hospital’s pediatric department shares some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for staying safe and warm this winter.

Staying warm

Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don’t forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat. The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions

Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Have children come inside periodically to warm up.

Hypothermia can occur more quickly in children than in adults. As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body temperature will decline in more severe cases. If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap in blankets or warm clothes.

Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to affect extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts in warm (not hot) water. Warm washcloths may be applied to a frostbitten nose, ears and lips. Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to drink.

Little sick girl sneezing onto her sleeve

Winter health

The viruses that cause the cold and flu tend to be more common in the winter. Teaching children to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu. Frequent hand washing is also encouraged. If soap and water are not available, sanitizer can kill cold and flu germs. Teach your child to avoid touching his/her eyes, nose or mouth; germs are often spread in this way. If possible, keep your child at home if he/she is sick, it will help prevent others from catching the illness.

Children 6 months of age and older should get the influenza vaccine to reduce their risk of getting sick with the flu virus.