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To some, snow may be an annoyance. It can be something that makes commute times longer and extra work around the house. For others – especially kids – snow is an opportunity to play and be creative. Skiing, sledding, snowboarding and building snowmen are all great winter activities for the family. But they can also be dangerous.
Shilpa Shankar, MD, Pediatrics at NorthShore, shares five tips on how to play it safe this winter:
Layer up. Dressing in layers helps insulate the body without overheating. The layer closest to the skin should be a moisture-wicking material. This clothing can be found at sports stores, typically near the running section. This material pulls the sweat away from your body – and prevents you from overheating. Use caution when dressing small children and babies. Scarves and mittens on a string are cute, but can be a choking hazard.
Warm up. After coming inside, take off all wet clothing immediately and put on fresh, dry clothes. Be sure to cover the wrists, toes and ankles to help keep body heat trapped. A fresh change of clothes by the door makes this process easier and so does a mug of hot cocoa to warm the hands.
All helmets are not created equal. Snow sports-related head injuries – like concussions – are becoming more frequent. Particularly in the 7-17 year old range, making helmets a must according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The helmet should be approved and meet the required safety recommendations for that particular sport. The helmet should fit comfortably, but snug, on the head without movement forward or backward. Remember to try on last year’s helmet to make sure it still fits.
Take frequent breaks. Playing in the snow can be a lot of fun – but there is a smart way to do it. Be sure to take breaks every 30-40 minutes. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside and remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours as you would in the summertime. The sun’s bright rays reflect off the snow, so kids (and adults!) can still get sunburnt. To avoid windburn, use lip balm with SPF often and apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Playing in the snow is a physical activity, it’s important to get some water during those breaks also.
Beware of the danger. When you check on kids, take a look at their skin. If their skin is pale, grey or blistering on the fingers, ears, nose or toes, it could be frostbite. Submerge the affected area under running warm (not hot!) water for 15-30 minutes. Shivering, slurred speech and clumsiness may be a sign of hypothermia. If you think your child has hypothermia, call 911 immediately.
How do you keep warm when playing in the snow?