Despite cold temperatures, many children enjoy being outside during the winter. While this is good because we encourage children to maintain a certain level of physical activity throughout the year, it can also mean trouble because the cold weather can cause serious problems.
The Saturday Early Show medical contributor Dr. Mallika Marshall has advice to keep your kids safe when the mercury drops and avoid such things as frostbite, the flu and other illnesses.
Parents need to maintain a healthy balance. Allow children to do what they want as long as they can do it safely, says Marshall. The following is her advice:
Avoid Taking Infants Outdoors - Infants lose their body heat quickly, so if at all possible, avoid taking them outside when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dress In Layers - Underneath their coat, a child should wear a turtleneck as well as an undershirt. Long johns should be worn under snow pants. Water-proof boots with two pairs of socks are a must as well as gloves or mittens. And don't forget to put a hat on your child. A hat prevents body heat from escaping.
Apply Sunscreen - Just because your children are wearing more clothes doesn't mean they're not exposed to the sun. In fact, the American Cancer Society recommends wearing sunscreen no matter what the season is because it's not the temperature that matters but ultraviolet rays, which are more intense when the sun is high in the sky. So make sure you put a sunscreen on your child with a minimum SPF 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Limit Outdoor Time - Many children would spend all day outside playing in the snow if allowed to. But if the weather is below freezing, you should check on them every 15 to 20 minutes.
If your child is going skiing or snowboarding, there are additional precautionary measures Marshall says parents should take:
First of all, don't allow your children on any trails that are too advanced for them. If they are beginners, make sure they have been given a lesson by an instructor, and only stick to beginning trails. They should wear helmets and well-fitting boots, and drink lots of water.
If you want to take your child sledding, use a proper sled rather than a plastic sheet or any other material that can become ripped by rocks or branches. Don't sled on slopes that end near a street or pond. Make sure they always sit forward rather than lying down head first. And they must wear a helmet.
Finally, if your child plays ice hockey, make sure your child wears proper protective gear such as a helmet and face shield with non-shatter lenses if they wear glasses. Also, they need a mouth guard, gloves and padding.