When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

Few things stick in a child’s memory more than a perfect snow day. To ensure these winter play days aren't tainted by injury or illness, parents should be aware of the dangers tied to the coldest time of the year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some winter safety tips on how parents can protect their children from winter dangers. The following are some crucial ways parents can keep their kids out of harm’s way.

1) Dressing Kids Appropriately

For outdoor activities, the AAP recommends dressing babies warmly — specifically in several thin layers. As a rule of thumb, parents should dress babies and small children in one more layer than an adult would wear in the same weather conditions. Layering clothing allows kids to remove a layer if they become too warm, while still retaining the other layers’ heat. Dress babies and young children with warm mittens, boots and a hat — preferably waterproof ones.

However, it is important to not place blankets, quilts, pillows or other loose bedding in your infant’s crib or sleep area, as they can cause suffocation and may contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Instead, opt for a thin blanket and tuck it under the crib mattress. If a blanket is absolutely necessary, make sure it does not go past your baby's chest.

2) Protecting Against Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite occurs when the skin and outer tissues come in contact with freezing temperatures for an extended period of time. This generally affects extremities like toes, fingers, ears and noses. Affected skin may become pale, gray or blistered, and the child may complain of burning or numbness. If you suspect your child has frostbite, bring them indoors immediately and place the frostbitten skin in warm (not hot) water.

The AAP urges parents not to rub the affected areas for warmth. After a few minutes, dry and cover your child with clothing or blankets. Give him or her something warm to drink.

If numbness or burning continues after drying the child off, call your child's doctor right away.

Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below normal. This usually occurs when a child has been outside in extreme cold without proper clothing or when their clothes have become wet. Hypothermia can occur more quickly in children than in adults.

Symptoms of hypothermia may include shivering, and the child may become lethargic and clumsy. In some cases, a child with hypothermia may have slurred speech.

If you suspect hypothermia, call 911 immediately. In the meantime, bring the child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap the child in warm blankets.

The AAP also recommends setting limits on time spent outdoors to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Children should periodically come inside and warm up.

To prevent hypothermia and frostbite, it is important to set reasonable time limits for your kids in terms of outdoor activities. Have your child come indoors periodically to warm up.

3) Managing Winter Sports

Ice skating is a wintertime favorite, and it's easy to find an approved skating area by inquiring with the local police department.

According to the AAP, make sure your child does the following:

· Skates only on approved surfaces

· Does not chew gum or eat candy while skating

· Skates in the same direction as the crowd

· Wears appropriate knee and elbow pads and a helmet

· Does not skate alone

Before your child goes sledding, make sure the sled is structurally sound, splinter-free and steerable. The AAP does not recommend sledding with inner tubes or snow disks. Children should stay away from motor vehicles, wear a helmet and be constantly supervised while sledding.

Speak with your health care provider about keeping your children safe this winter.