Winter finally seems to have arrived, and it has kids throughout Atlanta hoping for a snow day. As much fun as winter can be, it also has its risks. On top of the flu, there are several types of injuries that winter can cause, especially in kids. To help your family stay safe this year, our board-certified pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center are explaining the most common winter injuries and how you lower your kids’ risks.
Injuries from the Cold Temperatures
Frostbite is a common injury during the winter, particularly in colder climates. It happens when skin and outer tissues are so cold that they freeze. While extremely cold temperatures aren’t as common in Georgia, kids who play outside long enough in below-freezing weather with enough exposed skin can still get frostbite. The skin starts getting red and tingly, and if the frostbite advances, the skin becomes gray and painful or eventually white and hard. To prevent frostbite, keep your kids well-covered in winter weather and limit the time they spend playing outside. If you notice the beginnings of frostbite, put the skin in warm (not hot) water.
Cold air also tends to be very dry, which can lead to cracked skin. It can also cause nosebleeds when the delicate skin inside the nose is too dry. To prevent excessive dryness, use a cold air humidifier, especially in your child’s room at night. Saline nose drops can keep the nasal tissue more hydrated as well.
Injuries from Fires
Between holiday decorations and just keeping your home warm, house fires are unfortunately frequent during the winter. Follow these safety tips for kids:
- Keep space heaters 3 feet away from any fabric, paper, or anything else that could burn, and turn them off when unattended.
- If you are celebrating Christmas and putting up a Christmas tree, only use lights that won’t get hot, check them for frayed wires, and turn them off any time you leave or go to sleep. If you use a real tree, keep the stand filled with water at all times. If you use an artificial tree, look for one that’s labeled “fire resistant.”
- If you have a fireplace with a glass door or metal screen, keep kids away from the fireplace. The glass or metal can get very hot and remain hot long after the fire has gone out.
Injuries from Winter Sports
Ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, and sledding are fun ways to enjoy the winter, especially if you go to an area that has more snow than we typically get in Atlanta. But these sports can also cause a variety of kids’ injuries. To keep your kids safe if we get snow and ice (or if you travel somewhere that does), use these safety rules:
- No unsupervised skiing, sledding, etc.
- Only skate on areas that are designated as safe for skating – not on lakes that appear to be frozen.
- No sledding head-first.
- Sledding should only take place on a slope that is at a 30-degree angle or less, and it must end in a long, flat runoff that is nowhere near traffic.
- Kids should only ski or snowboard if they’ve been taught by a skilled, professional instructor, and they must stay on slopes appropriate for their skill level.
- Kids under 16 should not operate a snowmobile, and kids under age 6 should not ride on them.
Injuries from Winter Driving
Winter can create hazardous driving conditions. If you don’t have much experience with winter driving, do some research about how to react to a skid, how to break on icy roads and snow, and other techniques. It’s best to keep teen drivers off the road in hazardous conditions until they can gradually gain experience in more mild conditions and work their way up.
For kids that use car seats, keep them warm in thin, snug layers instead of big puffy clothing. The puffy clothing will go instantly flat if a collision occurs, leaving an unsafe amount of space in the harness. Car seat covers are popular for keeping kids warm, but make sure it only goes on top of the car seat – never between your child and the seat or between your child and the harness. These are just a few tips for car seat safety, but we often post more details on our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profiles.
Winter can be such a fun season for kids, especially when we see the occasional snowfall. If you take the right preventative steps, you and your kids can have a safe, healthy, and fun-filled winter. For more advice on a healthy winter, reach out to Children’s Wellness Center and we’ll be happy to help.