Note: This is a sponsored guest post contributed by DuBoff & Associates, Chartered law firm. Mr. Joel DuBoff has been practicing injury and accident law in Silver Spring, MD, and the DC area for over 30 years. In that time, he has built his family practice and reputation for caring and successful legal representation.
Fall is already here, and winter weather is just around the corner in DC. And with the colder temperatures comes a new set of seasonal dangers for children. What are some of the most common cold-weather risks for kids, and what steps can you take to protect your family?
Colds and Flu
As any parent knows, children tend to pick up more viruses in the winter when they’re indoors with infected classmates. To reduce the risk, teach your kids to wash their hands often and thoroughly, using soap and hot water.
Unwashed hands, along with coughing and sneezing, spread many dangerous illnesses like flu and whooping cough. Instruct kids to avoid spreading infection by covering nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. If they don’t have a tissue, they should sneeze onto a sleeve rather than on their hands.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children older than six months should get a flu shot.
Bulky coats can pose significant dangers for small children who ride in car seats. Experts warn that in a serious crash, thick coats can compress, leaving extra room in a child’s safety seat harness. The excess room can significantly increase the risk that your child will suffer devastating injuries in a crash. Safe Kids Worldwide advises that you use your child’s coat as a blanket and cover her with it in the car for warmth.
Other experts disagree with that advice, however, arguing that a child could freeze to death following a crash on a rural road if you are unconscious or incapacitated. Instead of having your child ride without a coat, consider using thinner layers of clothing, and you can tuck in a blanket around an infant — outside of the safety seat harness.
For older children, winter sports can pose a significant danger of injury. To keep kids safe during their cold-weather activities, make sure they:
• Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
• Have supervision when sledding
• Avoid sledding near trees, signposts, fences, parking lots, streets, and crowded areas
• Use sleds that can be steered and sit facing forward with feet first
• Avoid sledding using objects that can be pierced, like plastic bags
• For ice skating or skiing, get proper training from a qualified instructor
• Wear wrist guards and other equipment that is properly sized and fits well
• Use sunscreen and sunglasses that protect eyes from UV rays
• Take periodic rest breaks to avoid becoming too tired, which increases the risk of injury
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Children playing outside without protective clothing are at high risk of body temperature falling below normal levels, known as hypothermia. Symptoms of mild hypothermia include numb hands and shivering, while moderate and severe cases can progress to confusion and lethargy, loss of muscle coordination and sleepiness.
For a mild case, you should bring your child indoors immediately and take off any wet clothing. Provide a hot beverage and have the child move around to warm up. For children displaying more serious symptoms — and for babies displaying any symptoms — call 911 immediately.
In a case of frostbite, a child’s outer tissues and skin freeze. Ears, nose, toes, and fingers typically are most likely to be affected. Symptoms include numbness or burning, along with hard, white or grayish skin. In all cases, you should consult a doctor; if skin begins to turn blue or purple, go to an emergency room or call 911 right away.
Extra blankets and other bedding can seem like a great idea to keep young children warm, but they can act as a suffocation hazard. In a baby’s crib, soft bedding materials can obstruct your baby’s airways. Any loose bedding like pillows and quilts can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, medical experts warn.
Infants should only need a crib sheet that fits tightly over the mattress. For extra warmth, consider a wearable blanket.
With so many fun activities available, winter in the DC area can be a magical time for kids. By taking the proper precautions, parents can make sure it’s also a safe time.