Family Health and Safety Tips for Winter

Winter is here. As we face the cold and snow, here are a few tips to keep your family safe and healthy until spring arrives.


Bye Bye Cold/Flu
  • Keep germs at bay by washing hands often. Refrain from touching your face. Our eyes, nose, and mouth are portals of entry for bacteria and viruses to enter our bodies.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze. A cough can travel 3 feet and a sneeze even farther. Try to cough/sneeze into the crook of your arm to prevent germs (thousands of them) from entering the air.
  • It’s easy to get stuck indoors in the winter. Try to keep active and have an exercise routine in place for all ages. Exercise boosts our immune system and speeds recovery from illness including cold and flu.
  • Be sure your family gets the flu shot and is up to date on immunizations. Did you know that Influenza is the only respiratory virus preventable by vaccination?
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals. Maintaining a healthy diet can strengthen our immune system to ward off the cold and flu. Further information on healthy diet can be found here: cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html

Care for Your Skin
  • Be sure to moisturize. Our environment becomes quite dry during the winter months and it drains our skin of the moisture it needs. Take care of your skin by using a daily moisturizer to prevent cracking, itching, and irritation. Products with lanolin and/or glycerin work best as they provide a thicker barrier to winter elements.
  • Use sunscreen! The sun’s rays reflected off of the snow can cause sunburn in winter months. Continue to use sunscreen when outside for extended amounts of time. 80% of ultraviolet light can penetrate through clouds and that same percentage reflects off of the snow onto our skin. This means our skin is being hit twice as hard with damaging rays. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside and don’t forget the tops of ears and lips.
  • Add moisture to your living environment by using a home or room humidifier. This helps our skin and the mucous membranes of our eyes, nose, and mouth stay moist and prevent irritation.

Winter Dress for Children for Outdoor Play
  • Dress children with warm hats, boots, and mittens. The outer clothing should have water repellent material.  Layer clothing using thin, wind resistant, moisture wicking material, if possible.
  • Check on children regularly to make sure their clothing continues to stay dry. Change them out of wet clothing promptly.
  • Tuck drawstrings and loose scarves in to prevent tripping and/or chocking.
  • Limit exposure, especially in colder temperatures and windy conditions. Pay attention to wind chill!
  • Take breaks and warm your child up indoors with a warm drink.

Travel for Little Ones
  • Warm the car ahead of travel if possible.
  • Avoid big, bulky jackets when dressing for outdoor travel. The bulk of the jacket can prevent the car seat straps from securing adequately. If in question, check the straps of the car seat once with the jacket is on and then again with the jacket is off.  If there is enough slack in the straps to be able to pinch the edges together with thumb and index finger, the jacket may be too bulky. Large puffer jackets may deflate once strapped into the car seat. This deflation will not hold the straps secure enough if in a crash. It is best to use a thinner jacket while in the car and bundle with a blanket.
  • Make sure your child is in the proper age car seat. Further information can be found on car seat recommendations at: https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx.

Traveling Tips In Winter Months

Let someone know where you’re traveling and when you will return. This will prompt help if you become stranded. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full to prevent ice from forming in the gas lines, causing it to stall and or not start.  A winter emergency kit placed inside your vehicle is a must have. It should include:

  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • High-calorie, non-perishable food (ex: fruit and grain bars)
  • Extra clothing, blankets
  • Bag of sand for traction in snow
  • Shovel
  • Windshield brush/scraper and wiper fluid
  • Tool kit
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Road map
  • Candle/matches

If stranded let motorists know you need help. Turn on emergency flashers and/or tie a bright piece of clothing on the antenna, or hang it on the outside of a closed window. If able to exit your vehicle safely, check that the exhaust pipe is not covered with snow. Turn vehicle on for 10 minutes every hour to heat the inside and conserve gasoline, if you are unsure when help will arrive. Move your body by wiggling toes and fingers, lifting knees and shifting weight on the buttocks. This will promote blood flow to the extremities and generate heat in the body.


 Hypothermia

Know the signs of hypothermia. Hypothermia is caused by low body temperature due to exposure to the cold. Our bodies loose heat faster than we can generate it. Prolonged exposure depletes our stored energy our bodies need to function. The result is hypothermia. Extreme cold temperatures are normally the culprit, but it can occur at temperatures as high as 40 degrees Fahrenheit if the body is chilled from melted snow on clothing or sweat. Warning signs of hypothermia in adults and children include:  shivering, confusion, memory loss, exhaustion, drowsiness, and or slurred speech. In infants, hypothermia presents as cold skin that may or may not be bright red, and or low energy. Respond by checking the infant’s temperature if possible. A reading of 95 degrees or below is considered a medical emergency and 911 should be called. If medical attention is not available, warm the person by:

  • Moving the person indoors/warmer area/out of the cold.
  • Remove wet clothing/dress with warm, dry clothing.
  • Wrapping in an electric blanket if available. Provide skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of clothing, blankets, sheets, or towels
  • Provide/offer warm fluids to increase the body temperature.
  • Continue to keep the person dry and wrapped, including the neck and head, even after body temperature has risen.

Preventative measures include monitoring infant rooms where babies sleep for long periods of time. Dress warmly, using multiple, wind resistant, thin layers that wick moisture away from body to keep you dry. Pay attention to shivering. It’s our body’s first sign that it’s loosing heat. Continued shivering is a signal to head inside. Check home furnaces annually to make sure it is working efficiently. If you are going to be out in the cold for extended amounts of time, or even for short travel distances, let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to return. This prompts help to come find you if you do not return. Always check weather conditions prior to going out in Minnesota winter. Be mindful of wind chill, which is the “feels like” temperature.