Safety tips for kids this winter

Children need to move at least an hour a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Don’t let cold weather prevent outside fun. A few precautions can keep your kids safe, warm and active.

Find time to go outside

Short winter days can make it harder to find time to get outside. Consider delaying homework until after dinner a few afternoons a week to let your child be active outdoors before the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

Bundle up

Layering clothing properly is the key to keeping kids toasty when they’re outside. Infants and young children need one more layer of clothes than an adult would wear outdoors, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Choose fabrics with care. Clothing next to the skin should absorb moisture, while outer layers should be windproof and waterproof. Use thermal underwear on top and bottom, and bundle kids up in hats, gloves and scarves to protect exposed skin from the cold and wind.

Don't skip the sunscreen

Sun damage can happen any time of year. Harmful ultraviolet rays pass right through clouds, and snow lying on the ground can reflect those rays back onto your child’s exposed skin.

Watch the temperature

If you’re not sure if it’s too cold for kids to go outside, check the wind chill — this number measures the total effect of outdoor weather conditions, including wind speed and temperature, on exposed skin.

When kids are dressed correctly, it’s OK for them to be outside when the wind chill is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and above, according to “Child Care Weather Watch,” a resource from the Iowa Department of Public Health. They can play outdoors safely if it’s between 13 and 31 degrees, as long as they take frequent breaks to warm up inside.

With a wind chill below 13 degrees, kids can get frostbite before they realize it. Skip outdoor time entirely on those days and arrange indoor activities instead.

Know when to go inside

Children often get caught up in play and don’t pay attention to signs that it’s too cold. Even older children and teens are susceptible to this, so supervise your kids carefully when temperatures are low.

Frostnip, a precursor to frostbite, leaves skin pale and tingly. Kids who experience it should come inside right away.

Common frostbite symptoms
  • White, waxy skin
  • Numbness
  • Stinging pain
  • Skin that feels hard
If your children show any of these signs, bring them indoors immediately, get them into dry clothing and take them directly to see a medical professional.
Other red flags include:
  • Chattering teeth
  • Shivering
  • Dizziness or clumsiness
  • Feeling weak
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Pale skin
  • Puffy or swollen face
  • Slurred speech
Don’t rub the affected area — this could do more harm than good. You can warm frostbitten areas with warm (not hot) water or by using body heat.

Frostbite can be a serious health emergency. If you suspect your child has frostbite, go to the nearest emergency department or urgent care center.

The Cohen Children’s Urgi Center has convenient hours:

Featured in the following publications:

Kids First 2018