Cold Weather and Kids. How to Keep Your Family Safe at Home, Outside and in the Car.
Bitterly cold weather is making its way into North Texas as we speak. By Tuesday morning, the temperature in Fort Worth is expected to be in the 20’s. To keep your family safe and warm through this first taste of winter, here are a few things to remember:
- Don’t put blankets or other loose bedding in your infant’s sleeping environment. Instead, babies should wear one-piece sleepers or sleep sacks to keep warm while avoiding the risk of suffocation. For more information on SIDS, suffocation and co-sleeping dangers, click here.
- Make sure your home has working carbon monoxide detectors on every level, especially near bedrooms. They should be located at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances. You can find more information about carbon monoxide dangers in this Checkup Newsroom story from 2015.
- Have a fire escape plan ready in case of a house fire. Make sure the whole family knows what to do if the unimaginable happens.
In the Car
- Don’t put your child in a car seat with a heavy coat on. In a crash, padding from a coat or thick layers will flatten out, leaving room under the car seat harness. This increases the risk of a child slipping through the straps and being thrown from the car seat. Instead, dress your child in thin layers. Once buckled up, slip the coat on backwards with the sleeves on the child’s arms. This way, the coat acts as a blanket and doesn’t affect the fit of the harness.
- If using a blanket over a newborn in a car seat, tuck it several inches below the child’s chin to ensure it won’t become a source of suffocation.
- Be mindful of road conditions which may increase the risk of a collision.
- Pack an emergency bag for your car. It’s a good idea to have blankets, warm clothing, hats and gloves available in case you become stuck in winter weather. You’ll also want to have non-perishable snacks packed away.
- Make sure newborns are dressed appropriately. "A good rule of thumb is to dress newborns in as many layers as you're wearing," said Diane Arnaout, M.D., FAAP, a Cook Children's pediatrician in Willow Park. "That includes covering their heads, hands and feet. Those areas can lose a lot of heat and be harder to keep warm."
- For the most warmth, dress your little ones in wool instead of cotton. Essential winter items include hats and gloves, as well as sweatshirts or T-shirts that can be layered under overcoats or jackets. “Infants have the same temperature intolerance as adults, but they lose more heat through their heads,” said Frank McGehee, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician at Fort Worth (Magnolia). “A hat is one of the most important pieces of winter clothing for infants.”
- Blue skin, shivering and a cool chest and stomach are signs that children may be dangerously cold. If you see these signs, take action immediately to get kids out of the cold. Seek immediate medical attention if you're not able to warm the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, "is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Stay safe this winter by learning more about hypothermia, including who is most at risk, signs and symptoms, and what to do if someone develops hypothermia." To learn more about the warning signs of hypothermia, click on this site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Warning signs for adults include:
- Shivering, exhaustion
- Confusion, fumbling hands
- Memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
- Bright red, cold skin
- Very low energy
Victims of hypothermia can include babies sleeping cold rooms.