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Family Connections Montana

Winter Safety for Families and Children

The weather outside may be frightful, but it’s not healthy to stay indoors all winter and wait for spring. You can enjoy the beautiful winter wonderland with your entire family. By following a few precautions, you can keep your family safe, stay fit, and have a great time no matter how much snow piles up.

When temperatures drop, children need extra attention to stay warm, safe and healthy. Young children are less likely to recognize when they are cold and more likely to lose body heat quickly due to their small size. Bring children inside as soon as possible if they get wet or cold.

Dress in layers. Dress in layers including long underwear, a turtleneck, a sweater, and warm socks. Add more layers depending on the temperature. Make sure head, neck and hands are covered. Waterproof pants, jackets, boots, and mittens are great top layers because they stay dry. Avoid scarves and hood strings which can strangle small children.

Keep hydrated. Children lose water through their breath due to dry winter air. They may not drink as much water when they’re playing in cold weather because they don’t get as hot. Remind them to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, warm drinks, and eating soup. If your child gets nosebleeds, use a cold air humidifier in their room. Saline nose drops can help keep their nose moist.

Prevent injuries. Always wear protective goggles and approved helmets to prevent head injuries when snowboarding, skiing, sledding, skating, or snowmobiling. Supervise your kids and make sure all equipment is properly fitted. When skating on ponds, check the thickness of the ice to prevent falls through the ice. Snowboarders should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. When sledding make sure the hill isn’t too steep, rocky, or near busy roads. Wear sunscreen since the sun can reflect off the snow.

Watch for danger signs. Dress warmly and limit time outdoors in extreme weather. If skin becomes red, numb or tingly; bring your child inside, remove all clothing, and immerse them in warm (not hot) water until they feel sensation again. Frostbite usually occurs on fingers, toes, ears, noses, and cheeks. If these areas become very cold and turn white or yellowish gray, take your child immediately to the nearest emergency room. Signs of hypothermia are shivering, slurred speech, and unusual clumsiness. Call 911 immediately for hypothermia.

Stay Healthy. Give your kids a snack before going outside; the calories will give them extra energy in the cold weather. Illnesses are more prevalent when we are indoors and exposed to more airborne germs. One of the best ways to stop the spread of germs and viruses is to make sure your family washes their hands frequently throughout the day.

Have a Plan. What will your family do if you’re separated due to a blizzard or power outage? Have an emergency kit at home and in your car. Include warm blankets, flashlights, batteries, warm clothing, water, food, diapers, wipes medicine, etc. Stay informed with a battery powered radio and a cell phone charger.

Travel Safely. Remove your child’s bulky, thick coat before putting them in a car seat. The coat can compress in a crash, putting your child at greater risk of injury. Instead, lay the jacket over your child like a blanket once they’re safely secured.

Sleep Safely. Extra blankets can seem cozy in a baby’s crib, but soft bedding can block a baby’s airway during sleep. To keep your baby warm on cold winter nights, put them in a blanket sleeper.

Prevent Fires. More household fires happen during the winter. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Create and practice a fire escape plan with two ways out of your house. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn.

Holiday Decorating. Move breakable ornaments to the top of the tree. Water your tree regularly since dry needles are a fire hazard. Check lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections, or broken sockets. Place candles away from anything that can burn, and blow them out when you leave the room. Put matches and lighters in a safe place. Keep poisonous plants including mistletoe, holly berry, and Jerusalem cherry out of reach from children.

Toy Safety. Check for small parts or choking hazards including button batteries that may be included in electronic toys. While these kinds of games are great for older kids, they can pose a potential danger for younger, curious siblings.

Cooking Safety. Prevent burns from hot food or liquid spills by using the back burner of your stove and turn pot handles away from the edge. Place food on a counter top out of the reach of young children and not on an open oven door. Teach older kids how to cook safely and never to leave the kitchen while using the stove or oven.

Have a fun and safe winter and holiday season.