Winter is normally a cozy and fun season for families, with so much of our time spent at home together. Unfortunately, there are many hidden dangers lurking during the colder months, both inside our homes and even in our own backyards.
Snow, ice and freezing temperatures can create many hazards for little ones during the winter. Keep your family safe this winter by following these tips.
Sledding is a fun and popular outdoor activity for kids, and in the Midwest, many families are able to sled in their own backyards. This doesn’t come without risk, however. According to the Mayo Clinic, 25,000 under the age of 15 are seen in the ER for sledding injuries every year.
To help prevent sledding accidents, doctors recommend choosing a safe sledding hill that’s free of trees, rocks and other obstacles that could potentially injure children. Using a sled with a steering mechanism and having children wear a helmet is also highly encouraged.
Frostbite and frostnip
Winter temperatures can often dip to below zero in January and February. Despite the cold, kids will likely be playing outside often. Frostbite occurs easily on exposed skin in sub-zero temps and causes long-term tissue damage. Frostnip is less severe, but still unpleasant.
To prevent frostbite and frostnip, Stanford Children’s Health recommends making sure your children are wearing proper winter gear, including multiple layers, and changing hats and mittens as soon as they become wet. Fingers and toes should be checked periodically, and kids should have multiple play breaks where they consume a warm beverage or snack.
Slipping on ice
The CDC says approximately 1 million people are injured every year from falling on snow and ice. Black ice often occurs on roadways, but can also be found on our own driveways and sidewalks. Make sure to properly salt these high traffic areas before children walk on them. Teach children to go slowly and do a “shuffle” instead of walking regularly on ice. Rubber-soled boots are the best variety of footwear for little ones when walking outside in winter weather.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon Monoxide poisoning is life-threatening and more common during the winter due to clogged chimneys, wood burning fireplaces, furnaces and space heaters.
Johns Hopkins Medicine advises families to have their furnace and fireplace cleaned every year before winter. They also recommend using electric space heaters in lieu of fuel burning. If you warm up your vehicle during the winter, do so outside instead of in the garage. Make sure CO detectors are installed throughout your home and in proper working order.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 346,800 home fires between 2015-2019. Three quarters of civilian fire deaths were caused by home fires in that time period.
Luckily, fire prevention is possible. The Red Cross’ top tips are to test smoke alarms regularly, store flammable items (like hairspray and cooking oil) in safe places and have electrical wiring checked on a yearly basis.
Sometimes no matter how much you prepare, the worst still happens. That’s why it’s important to have a fire escape plan ready in advance for your family. The plan should include having two points of exit and a meeting place once your family is outside.
Snow storms pose many risks, especially when your home’s power goes out as a result. If you lose electricity and heat during a blizzard, take immediate action to keep your family members warm. Conserve heat by closing off unneeded rooms, stuffing towels or rags in cracks under doors and covering windows at night with drapes or blankets.
Make sure small children are outfitted in footie pajamas or sleep sacks while sleeping. If the power is off for so long that your home cannot maintain a warm temperature, make arrangements to stay elsewhere.
During extremely cold temps, the CDC recommends leaving water taps open and dripping continuously to avoid freezing pipes. Allow heated air to reach pipes by opening cabinets underneath sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms.
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