As it gets colder and we begin to see more snowfall, many kids will want to spend their free time playing outdoors. This – along with lighted parades, holiday parties, and the like – can all expose your family to the less festive aspects of the winter months. Here’s what to keep your eye on this winter, as well as some steps you can take to keep your family safe and healthy.

Hypothermia and Frostbite

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature is abnormally low. In adults and children, hypothermia can come across as intense shivering, exhaustion, confusion, and slurred speech. Babies can experience low energy and cold, bright red skin. If your child begins to display these symptoms, bring them into a warm room, remove any wet clothing, and work to warm them up. Call your primary care provider (PCP) for medical care and advice. In an emergency, call 911.

Frostbite occurs when your skin and tissues begin to freeze. It manifests as reddened skin with gray or white patches – usually in the extremities (fingers, toes, noses, and ears). The area may ache or lose feeling entirely. If you believe your child is experiencing frostbite, bring them into a warm room immediately. If possible, loosely wrap the frostbitten area in a dry cloth to protect it. Call your PCP, urgent care facility, or 911 in the case of an emergency.

The best protections against cold-related conditions are layered clothing, staying dry, and keeping vigilant. Warm drinks can also help increase body temperature, so a cup of hot chocolate may be the perfect treat for your child after an afternoon of sledding or snowman-making.

Keeping Healthy

In addition to watching out for Jack Frost nipping at your family’s toes, here are a couple of other items to keep in mind this winter.

  1. Protect your family from cold, flu, and other viruses. Continue to practice your best methods of protection against viral infections this winter, including washing hands with soap and water for twenty seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering your coughs, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated.
  2. Keep hydrated. Drinking water can help boost your immune system and help you fight off sickness. Daily water intake recommendations can vary depending on your age, sex, and other items, so check with your PCP or pediatrician to see the right amount of fluid for you. Along the same lines, a humidifier can add some needed moisture to the air during the colder months, helping with nose bleeds, dry throats, and sinus congestion.
  3. See your provider. If your family does end up with a case of the sniffles, keep an eye on their temperatures. For temperatures of 100.4F and higher, make an appointment with your PCP or pediatrician. For lower temperatures, contact your health facility’s nurse or triage line. These providers can help to suggest options for relief, as well as recommendations to keep your family as healthy as possible. The start of the new year is also a great opportunity to schedule an annual checkup or physical with your provider to review your health, ask questions, and set health and wellness goals.