As we enter the cold winter months, chances are that your children’s health is at the forefront of your mind. With winter comes an entirely new set of health risks for both you and your children, so it’s important to be prepared. Here are some of the most common children’s health risks that you’ll want to watch out for this winter.
There is still debate over why it is that colds are more common during the winter, though it may very well have to do with the fact that cold weather tends to bring people indoors, in closer proximity with one another. Whatever the reason, you need to take extra precaution during the winter season to ensure that your child stays cold-free. Take the usual precautions, such as regular, thorough hand washing; not touching the eyes, nose, mouth, or ears; and sterilizing surfaces in the home frequently. In addition, ensuring that your child eats a healthy breakfast and stays hydrated throughout the day is always a good idea.
Just like the common cold, the flu spreads more easily during the winter months. If your child is 6 months or old, he or she should get an influenza vaccine to reduce the risk of catching the flu. Flu vaccines can also significantly reduce flu symptoms in cases when your child might still contract the flu. It’s better to have your child get the flu vaccine sooner rather than later, as the peak of flu season occurs during the months of January, February, and March.
Hypothermia occurs when a child’s internal temperature falls below normal due to heavy exposure to colder temperatures. This can happen when a child is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather on a snowy day, without wearing proper attire or while wearing wet clothing. Signs of hypothermia include lethargy and clumsiness, and in more extreme cases your child might exhibit slurred speech or a declining internal body temperature. Call 911 immediately if your child exhibits any of these symptoms. To keep your child safe from hypothermia, be sure that your child wears several thin layers, plus warm boots, gloves, and a hat before heading outside. Since children can develop hypothermia more quickly than adults do, a good rule of thumb is dress your child in one more layer than you would wear. Be sure that your child stays dry, as well, coming indoors to change into new, dry layers as needed. It’s also a good idea to set time limits for playing outdoors, having your child come indoors at certain times to eat and warm up.
Frostbite occurs when your child’s skin and outer tissues become frozen, and it tends to happen in extremities such as the fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Your child may complain that his or her skin feels as though it is burning or becoming numb. In more extreme cases, the skin might become pale, gray, or blistered. Of course, it’s best to prevent frostbite from happening altogether by ensuring that your child is always wearing the proper attire. Should frostbite occur, you can treat less serious cases by gently immersing your child’s hands or toes in warm (not hot) water. You can also apply a warm washcloth to the affected area, but be sure not to rub the affected area. Should the frostbite continue after treatment, or should your child have a more serious case of frostbite, you should call a doctor immediately.
Nosebleeds are common in children during the winter because of the dry air that winter brings. If your child regularly gets nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in your child’s room at night. Saline drops and petroleum jelly can also help keep the nose tissue moist. As always, you should consult a doctor in more severe circumstances.
It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean that your child need not worry about getting sunburn. Sunburn can happen on any day of the year—even on cloudy days—and it is especially common on days when there is snow on the ground, as the snow will reflect sunlight. As a safe measure, cover exposed areas of your child’s skin with sunscreen, especially if your child is going to be skiing, snowboarding, tubing, or playing in the snow.
As this article mentions, it's important for kids to eat right and stay hydrated.