Winter Wellness and Safety

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Love it or hate it, winter rolls around every year. For families who live in colder climates, it brings with it several things that can adversely affect the wellness of you or your children. Keeping the following advice in mind and taking preventative steps will help ensure your family spends the wintertime in good health.

Bacteria & Viruses

In the winter, bacteria and viruses are all over the place and easily transmitted from person to person by touch or when they are breathed in. Even in the spring, when temperatures are still cold, they can be an issue.

The most common cold-weather illnesses to watch for are gastroenteritis (stomach flu), norovirus (winter vomiting bug), rhinovirus (common cold), strep throat, and pink eye. All are highly contagious and can set off other conditions in some cases. Maintaining proper practices of washing up and avoiding others who are infected can keep these bugs at bay.

Children in particular can be more susceptible to symptoms of the illnesses listed above. Because of that, preventative care is necessary to avoid complications, even in illnesses that begin small and seem harmless. In a report the CDC notes, “Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, are responsible for 7 of every 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending.”

So not only will being preventative save your kids some grief, it could also save you money in the long run.

Fungal Infections of the Feet

If you love the snow, nothing beats a good day playing outside after a big snowfall. But, you need to be concerned about foot care in the winter. Feet can sweat even when cold, and ice and snow can creep inside of boots.

If winter footwear is not dried properly between uses, fungus can grow, resulting in the development of athlete’s foot or toenail fungal infections. Frequently clean your footwear to avoid these issues.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Not getting enough sunshine can be a real problem for some people. The sun provides vitamin D and, without that you or your kids can be prone to mood swings, making the cooped-up feeling brought on by winter even more challenging.

Schedule time to enjoy the outdoors during colder months.

Dehydration & Dry Skin

As temperatures plummet, thermostats are raised to warm the house. With that, the air in the home becomes drier, and that can cause dehydration, wreaking havoc on everyone’s skin.

Dry skin for children can be mild or severe and affect all or parts of the body. If it gets bad enough, it can become very itchy and lead to excessive scratching which can then bring on infections if the skin has developed open sores. Use a humidifier to lessen these effects.

Slip & Fall

Winter weather sometimes brings lots of snow and ice – and excitement for little ones. Slip and fall accidents can be quite common as a child’s excitement pushes normal caution aside. Slippery conditions are everywhere: around the car when it is parked, on steps into the home or school, and even at playgrounds and on their equipment.

All can be problematic for excited children who could easily lose their footing or grip and get badly hurt. Ensure your family has the right footwear to avoid slips, and teach young ones to avoid walking on ice when possible.

Dry Eyes & Eye Injuries

As with dry skin, once the temperature in the home is raised, the chance of developing dry eyes increases. This dryness can cause itching and burning sensations. If frequently rubbed to reduce the discomfort, dry eye symptoms can be made worse and other conditions can develop.

Eye injuries need to be watched for as well. Playing outside on slippery surfaces can cause children to fall and hit something that could damage their eyes. Even something as fun as a snowball fight can cause serious eye injury if the snow is icy, packed too hard, or had bits of other substances (such as rocks or twigs) in it. Using protective eyewear during activities can prevent such injuries.

Traffic Accidents

Driving with your children during warm weather has its share of concerns, but those are amplified during winter months. While on the road this time of year, there is always a much greater chance of being involved in a collision due to snowy or icy roads -so it’s super important to make sure everyone in the car is properly seated and buckled in.

It’s also a good time to double-check your toddler’s car seat to make sure it’s not loose and all parts function as they should.

Accidental Poisoning From Eating Snow

For whatever reason, kids love to eat freshly fallen snow. Usually this is not a problem, but for children it can be. Snow eaten right after it has fallen is still “pure,” but after it’s been sitting around, there is a greater chance that it’s been contaminated in some way.

Of greatest concern is any snow that might have traces of “snow melt” products in them. Rock salt is the usual culprit, and ingesting it can cause serious stomach problems. Other forms of melting products are extremely toxic and could lead to death if ingested. Be watchful of your children and pets, and make sure they don’t ingest snow.

Playing & Hiding in Snow Banks

Nothing looks more enticing than a really big snow bank. Playing on one can be fun, but it can be dangerous as well. Kids can easily slip off and cause an injury to themselves. If they tunnel into one, the walls can collapse, trapping them under the heavy snow.

Another issue is when the banks are roadside, usually caused by a plow that has passed. Playing on anything along the edge of the road is dangerous. If your child slips off as a vehicle passes, there could be very serious consequences.

To help you and your family stay well, promote safety, and avoid injury, having a mindful self-care practice is key to maintaining mental, emotional, and physical health. This will promote awareness of self, surroundings, and physical cleanliness, allowing you to stay ahead of the elements brought on by the winter weather that can be harmful to your family’s health and safety.

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @ataylorian with any questions or suggestions.

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