Board certified pediatric emergency physician Dr. Ronnie Waldrop and Erin Rovelli, RN serve patients at the Children’s Emergency Room at Inova Loudoun Hospital – Loudoun County’s only emergency facility solely dedicated to caring for children and adolescents.


“March roars in like a lion, so fierce, the wind so cold, it seems to pierce. The month rolls on and spring draws near, and March goes out like a lamb so dear.” – Lorie Hill

While we’ve been teased with bouts of warm spring weather and anxiously wait for its official arrival, there’s still a wonderland of winter activities to enjoy and a few remaining snowstorms that may come our way.

As the winter draws to an end, it’s still important to take the necessary precautions to keep your family safe and warm during chilly late-winter days. When snow and ice fall, accidents can easily occur and before you know it, you may be on your way to the emergency room. Here are a few tips from the Children’s Emergency Room at Inova Loudoun Hospital to keep your family healthy, safe, and warm:

Cold-weather safety precautions for the home & indoors

  • Wash Hands. Ensure that all members of your family are regularly washing their hands. Wash hands after sharing toys, coughing, and blowing your nose to help prevent the spread of viruses like the flu and RSV. (The CDC has reported that flu season can run as late as May.)
  • Install Smoke Detectors. Install smoke detectors in every sleeping area and on each level of your home. With the cold temperatures, the use of space heaters and electric blankets increases; using these items improperly leads to increased opportunity for the equipment to cause a fire.
  • Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Again, it is important to install carbon monoxide detectors in every sleeping area. The use of space heaters and other heating equipment can lead to increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Always keep a window slightly open when the space heater is running.
  • Space Heaters: Use Caution. Give space heaters space; keep them three feet away from walls, furniture, curtains, bedding, and clothing. Keep children away from heaters, fireplaces, or wood stoves.
  • Emergency Kits. Make an emergency kit for your home that includes extra blankets and clothing, flashlights, batteries, matches, a first aid kit, can opener, jugs of water, medicines, and canned foods in case of power outage or other emergency.

Prepare a kit for your car that includes flares, tire chains, a flashlight, a scraper, water and food (energy bars), first aid kit, blankets, and gloves.

Dressing for the Cold

  • Dress in Layers. Dress your child in layers to protect them from the cold.  Waterproof pants and jackets are great top layers because they don’t allow the wetness to seep into the other clothing. Complete the cold weather ensemble with a hat, mittens or gloves, a scarf, warm socks, and winter boots. Rule of thumb for young children: dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
  • Use Sunscreen. Protect faces with sunscreen. Snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  • Car Seat Safety. When riding in the car, babies and children should wear thin, snug layers rather than thick, bulky coats or snowsuits to ensure proper fitting of seatbelts.
  • Limit Outdoor Exposure. There is no set amount of time kids should be allowed to stay outside in the cold weather. However, when being cold becomes unpleasant, it’s time to go inside. Check on your child often when they are playing outdoors and have them come inside periodically to warm up.

Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This tends to occur on the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Areas may become pale, gray, and blistered. Your child may complain of skin burning or becoming numb.

Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures. This often happens when a child is playing outside in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes become wet. Hypothermia can occur more quickly in children than in adults.

Winter Sports Safety

  • Ice Skating. Allow children to skate only on approved surfaces; check for signs posted by local authorities. Advise your child to:
    • Skate in the same direction as the crowd.
    • Avoid darting across the ice.
    • Never skate alone.
    • Wear a helmet – especially when learning how to skate.
  • Sledding. Children should be supervised when sledding. Insist that your children wear helmets and encourage them to sled feet first or sitting up – this may prevent head injuries. Areas for sledding should be clear of rocks, fences, and trees and should be covered in snow (not ice), not too steep, and end with a flat runoff.
  • Skiing and Snowboarding. Children who ski or snowboard are safer and have more fun if they take a lesson from a qualified instructor. Never allow your child to ski or snowboard alone – young children should always be supervised by an adult. It’s also important to ensure that all skiers and snowboarders wear helmets to avoid head injuries and that equipment is the right size and adjusted properly. Avoid skiing and snowboarding in areas with trees and other hazards.

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