Winter Safety Tips for Young Kids

Winter Safety Tips for Young Kids

Ice, colds and toys, oh my! Stay safe and healthy during the long cold-weather months.

By: Jenna Birch

Prevent Illness
It’s not that toddlers are more susceptible to germs in the winter, it’s just that there are more viruses around to get them sick.

“This is due to circulated air in homes, schools and daycare,” says pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, Seattle Mama Doc of Seattle Children’s Hospital. “We see typical cold viruses pop in the winter, things like rhinovirus, RSV or influenza.”

Monitor your kids. Colds are common and less severe, but the flu and RSV can turn into harsher problems like pneumonia.

Stop Sharing
Sharing is caring? Not in the wintertime, says Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu, who suggests children not share toys or food since this nice act will easily pass germs from one child to the next. Wash your kids’ hands frequently, and check out alternatives for kids over 2 — like sanitizers you can carry on you at all times. “Alcohol-based rubs are not recommended for children under 24 months old in some child care centers, but children over age 2 may be able to use them as an alternative to soap and water,” says Shu.

See a Doctor if
Take care of kids contracting germs in the winter — that means getting flu shots, keeping them home from school if they’re sick and teaching them to cough and sneeze into their elbows.

If they do come down with a bug — and since they can get rapidly worse in the winter — call the doctor if you don’t see improvement.

“Most viruses are self-limited, meaning children get better all on their own — their immune systems can do wonders,” says Swanson. “But that being said, if a child has a fever for more than three days, or cough symptoms are only worsening after a week, it's best to head in to see the pediatrician.”

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Use All Toys Properly
Outside, anything can be dangerous if your kids aren’t using it correctly.

“Think skis behind cars, sleds on roadways where cars travel or skis when kids aren't wearing helmets,” Swanson says.

Kids can get creative when it comes to having fun, especially when siblings band together, which often leads to mischief. Make sure your little ones aren’t playing with toys that aren’t made for toddlers, and that kids aren’t turning icy driveways into skating rinks or taking sidewalk activities to the street.


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Slide Safe
Both Swanson and Shu say their biggest concerns about outdoor winter activities are those that have children going fast, which could lead to traumatic injuries. With slick ice and snow, it’s easy to go too fast.

Make sure kids sled while sitting up — not headfirst — and avoid areas crowded with people, trees or other objects that may be dangerous if there’s impact.

Wear Layers
How long little kids can stay outside is totally dependent on how cold it is and what they have on, so dress them appropriately.

“The most important tip for parents is to ensure children are dressed in layers with a wicking layer closest to their skin and then about one more layer than you (as the adult) have on,” says Swanson.

But Don’t Overdo It
Less may not be more when it comes to layering up for the outdoors, but more is not more either, says Swanson. Keep to that happy medium: One more layer than you have on.

“If they are over-bundled, that's no good either,” Swanson says. “If they sweat or get wet, that sets them up for more risk of frostbite or severe cold.”

Ask Often
While kids are out sledding and making snowmen, it’s important to let them play — but don’t forget to ask how they feel, and often. Toddlers may not know to verbalize when they are suddenly too cold.

“Check in with your toddler every 15 minutes or so,” Swanson advises.

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