Winterizing your kids

The temperatures are dropping. Winter is here. It’s time to turn the thermostat up and pull out the sweaters. And for babies and small children, it’s important to take extra care in shielding them from bitter cold temperatures, whether they’re playing in the snow or just going from the house to the car.

One of the most important things to remember is that your babies and children are smaller than you, which means they lose heat much faster than adults. They aren’t able to regulate their body temperature as easily as you. Therefore, to keep kids and babies warm, dress them in layers.

“We advise parents to consider how they are dressing themselves, and then add an additional layer to their kids’ and babies’ clothing,” said Stephen Goykovich, D.O., Geisinger Jersey Shore Medical Associates. “This is usually enough to ensure kids stay as warm as adults in colder temperatures.”

And even though many adults go out in the cold without protecting hands and heads, babies and kids will not fare as well without some type of covering. Make sure they have warm gloves or mittens and hats before exposing them to the chill of winter. Waterproof boots are also essential if your little one is walking around in snow or rain.

Even indoors, small children should wear layers and socks to stay warm.

For infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents avoid using blankets or quilts in cribs due to the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Instead, it may be necessary to adjust your thermostat so the baby’s room is warm enough. You can dress your baby in layers for bed, including clothing such as fleece pajamas and a thermal sleep sack.

If your children are playing outside this winter, monitor them closely to make sure they’re staying dry.

“When kids’ clothes get wet or when they’re exposed to the cold for a long period of time, they’re at increased risk for hypothermia,” Dr. Goykovich said. “Pay close attention to their activities and check in with them to ensure their clothes are dry, they’re not shivering and they aren’t acting lethargic or clumsy.”

If your child exhibits these symptoms, hypothermia may be setting in. Call 911, remove any wet clothing and wrap them in blankets until help arrives.

Urge your children to come inside regularly to warm up and fuel up with a snack or some hot chocolate before letting them go back out.

Frostbite is another issue that can strike children during the winter months. It’s most common on fingertips, toes, ears, the nose and other exposed extremities. If your small children report that their skin is itchy or numb, or you notice that it is discolored, it may be frostbitten.

“Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes,” Dr. Goykovich said. “If skin is gray or blistering, it’s important to put the affected area in warm water until color and feeling returns.”

If feeling does not return after a few minutes, call your doctor.

The winter months don’t mean you and your kids have to be stuck inside. These colder temperatures just require some additional planning to ensure everyone stays healthy and warm.

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Stephen Goykovich, D.O., is a Geisinger primary care physician at the Avis Medical Center. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Goykovich or another primary care physician, please call 570-753-8620.

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