Safety Tips for Playing Outside in the Winter

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When it snows, most children have fun by engaging in snowball fights, sledding, building snowmen, and making snow angels. However, it is important for parents to prepare their children for the cold weather. Outside activities are wonderful as long as appropriate safety precautions are taken.

Nathan Timm, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says it’s important for children to stay active during the winter. Timm offers these tips for parents to keep their child safe, healthy, and happy while playing outside this winter:

Preparation

* Children should be dressed warmly. Mittens, gloves, hats and multiple thin layers will help keep them dry and warm.

* Children (and adults) can still get sunburned in the winter, especially if sun is reflecting off snow. Sunscreen should be applied liberally to sun-exposed skin to help prevent sunburn.

* Set appropriate time limits. Depending on the temperature, parents should allow their child to play outside for 30-60 minutes, and then come back inside to get warmed up.

Frostbite and Frostnip

* Regularly check to make sure the child’s clothes are not wet. Children get much colder when wet.

* Make sure that the child is not having any signs of frostnip and or frostbite. Frostnip occurs when cold temperatures damage the skin and blood vessels. Frostnip usually affects the face, feet, or fingertips and causes numbness and may turn skin white or blue-white. Frostbite is literally the freezing of the skin. The skin can feel waxy, frozen, and numb, and can cause blisters.

Sledding

When sledding, younger children should be kept in separate areas from older children and the following precautions should be taken:

* A child should sit or lie down feetfirst rather than headfirst to help reduce likelihood of head injury.

* Avoid sledding hills with trees or other obstructions.

* Sled only on hills covered in snow, not ice.

* A child should wear a helmet while sledding to prevent head injuries.