We are fortunate to live in such a diverse area. A short drive to the south and we can enjoy all the Bay Area has to offer. Just a few hours to the north and we are soon building snow men and engaging in a snow ball fight. Now that the weather is cooperating and there is snow to be found in Tahoe, we must take precautions to keep our children safe when we are enjoying the colder weather.
Nobody likes being cold. Dress yourself and your kids in layers. Layers allow you to adapt to the environment around you. Don’t forget gloves or mittens, warm boots, and a hat since 80-percent of heat-loss is through the head.
Sunglasses and goggles are also a good idea as they help protect the eyes and also provide coverage from the bright glare of the sun that is reflected off of the snow.
If you plan to be out all day, consider writing your cell phone number or your hotel’s phone number on a slip of paper and place it in a secure pocket in your child’s jacket should your group become separated. Creating a family meeting place, like at the snack area or at a ski lift, is also a good idea.
Just because it is winter, that doesn’t mean you can skip sun protection. Even cloudy days in the mountains can mean sunburn. A good sunscreen with an SPF of 30 applied to exposed areas will help prevent any winter burns. Just remember to reapply every two hours.
Hitting the Slopes
If this is your child’s first time skiing or snowboarding, try and avoid crowded slopes or areas that are full of potential obstacles like trees. Lessons by a qualified instructor are also a good way to help encourage safe habits.
Remind everyone in your group not to ski or snowboard alone and to drink plenty of water while enjoying the slopes.
If sledding is more your style, avoid cars and fences and keep an eye out for hazards like large rocks that might be lying just beneath the snow. It is also a good idea to keep little one’s away from the more advanced sledders on steep hills who may be more interested in speed than watching out for smaller children. Also make sure that your sled is in good shape, free of rips or splinters that may cause an accident.
And whether your child is a sledder, a skier or a snowboarder, remember to have them wear a helmet that fits now, not one that they will grown into. The helmet should be snug, centered on top of your child’s head with the chinstrap securely fastened. A bright helmet also makes finding your child easier when in a crowd.
And parents, you should wear helmets too. Remember, children learn safety habits by the examples we set.
Above all, enjoy some family time while enjoying the winter weather.
For more information about ways to stay healthy, talk with your family physician or visit kp.org for other healthy living suggestions.
Jeff Gaborko, MD is a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.