Dress Your Kids in Layers
For the kiddos, our first tip is to dress them in layers. It’s easy to remove layers, but it’s not easy to add them (especially if you forgot them at home). For smaller children and babies, a rule of thumb is to add an extra layer of clothing than a regular adult would wear to keep warm. The base layer should be a material that can wick away moisture such as sweat. A good base layer material could be synthetic materials, wool, silk, or cotton. Synthetic materials like polyester and microfiber-based fabrics do not absorb moisture; rather they transfer it to the outer layers. Wool is great at wicking away moisture, but it can be uncomfortable depending on how it’s made. Silk is probably the most comfortable, but it is the weakest and hardest to take care of. Finally, cotton is the cheapest and quite comfortable; but, it absorbs moisture easily making it slow to dry in colder conditions. The middle layers provide additional insulation. Multiple thin middle layers will allow for an easy adjustment of temperature. Wool, Fleece, Down, and Cotton are acceptable choices for the middle layers. The outermost layer, known as the shell layer, should let moisture through from the inside to the outside but not the other way around. Raincoats, hard shells like waterproof breathable materials, and soft shells like water resistant materials are all acceptable shell layers. Which one you choose, is dependent on the type of weather expected.
Keep Your Pets Indoors
For the pets, our first tip is to keep them indoors! When temperatures drop, everyone wants to stay warm and staying inside is an easy way to do so. Unless you’re taking your pet outside to exercise, they will be safer inside. Most pets like dogs or cats are mammals, just like humans. This means that they will be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as temperatures drop below freezing. Exposed skin such as noses, ears, and paws can freeze and suffer irreversible damage. Keep your pets indoors and if you do take them outside take the necessary precautions.
Check Your Car’s Tire Pressure
For the cars, our first tip is to check your tire pressure. The tires are in direct contact with the road and the winter weather can produce adverse conditions. Wet, icy roads can cause severe accidents, so it’s important to make sure that your tires are ready to handle the dangerous conditions. If you do not have your car equipped with snow tires, it is important to check your tire pressure. The cold causes air molecules in the tire to contract, deflating the tire. This in turn closes up the treads, which decreases the amount of traction a tire has. The owner’s manual should list the appropriate pounds per square inch that the tire should be inflated to. Your local gas station should have the necessary tools to check and adjust tire pressure.
Remove Hazards from Clothing
Most times we overlook clothing as being unsafe, but for a child certain clothes can pose a danger. Scarves and clothes with drawstrings like sweatshirts/jackets seem harmless to adults, but for a child running around on a playground drawstrings and scarves could potentially be dangerous. These articles of clothing can get caught on playground equipment, vehicle doors like cars or buses, and countless other things. These entanglements could result in strangulation or dragging the child in the case of a vehicle. Instances like this might seem few and far between, but it is a reality. So much that the Consumer Product Safety Commission supported new federal safety rules for drawstrings in 2011, in order to decrease injuries and death to children. If your child does have clothing with drawstrings, simply remove the hazard. Otherwise, avoid them and buy an alternative design that has snaps, Velcro, or elastic for closing the hood.
Make an Outdoor Shelter for Your Pet
For your pets, in addition to trying to keep them inside with you we understand some just love the outdoors! If your pet spends a lot of its time outdoors, here is our tip for fighting the winter weather. Create or provide a shelter for your pet! The shelter should be nicely insulated, creating a draft free environment. It should also be kept dry. This can be done by raising the shelter’s floor a few inches off the ground, and putting a burlap or heavy plastic flap over the door way. In addition, make sure to point the house away from the wind. The shelter should be large enough for your pet to comfortably get into and lay down/sit. However, it should be small enough to keep the pet’s body heat inside.
Check Your Car’s Battery
After you check your tire pressure on your car, make sure to check the car battery. A car battery lasts anywhere from about three to five years, so try and keep track of how old your battery is. During the winter, the car has to work harder with all the winter ailments meaning there is more stress on the battery. Even if your car battery is not very old, it is still a good idea to check it during the winter. When checking the battery, make sure you take the proper safety precautions and do not do anything unless you understand the potential risks etc. Just looking at the battery cables and clamps will tell you if there has been fraying or corrosion. A white, powdery substance around the clamps indicates that there has been corrosion from battery acid. This can easily be cleaned off.
For the kids, as the sun comes out it’s important to remember that they can still get sunburn in the winter! It’s easy to forget about sunburn, but if you’ve ever gone been skiing for too long in the sun, you know what we’re talking about: goggle tans! Sunburn is never fun and it can be even worse in the winter because we forget to put on sunscreen making our skin more susceptible to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Aside from direct sunlight, the snow acts as a reflective surface that increases exposure to UV rays. So remember, if it is a sunny day and you’re going to be outside with your kids for an extended period of time, don’t forget to cover up with sunscreen.
Help Other Pets
Tip three for the pets is more so for the neighborhood pets/stray animals. It’s sad to see, but there are some households that keep their pets such as cats, outdoors year round. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but do what you can to help these animals. Feral and stray cats can be common in some neighborhoods and they need water, food and shelter just like other pets. It is easy to help them out.
Check Your Car’s Oil
After checking your tire pressure and car battery, go ahead and check your oil. Most car technicians/mechanics say a rule of thumb for checking oil is that you should change it every 3,000 miles or once every three months. An important step in checking your oil is to make note of its viscosity. Viscosity simply means thickness, and oil viscosity definitely affects your engine’s performance. In the winter time, the colder temperatures cause oil to thicken. When this happens, the flow of oil between the car’s engine and its parts slows. In turn, the engine becomes hotter and could even overheat. The owner’s manual should provide information pertaining to the type of oil and it may recommend a thinner oil type for colder temperatures.
Properly Equip Children for Winter Sports
Make sure your children are properly equipped when it comes to winter sports. If you plan on going skiing or snowboarding for the weekend and you’re taking your kids it is essential that both of you wear helmets. It may seem excessive, but even if you’re only going sledding it is important to have your children in helmets. The brain is in some important stages of development during the youth years. A sledding, skiing or snowboarding accident could hinder this development and cause major problems later on. If your child is playing ice hockey competitively or recreationally with friends it is important that have a helmet with a cage mask. Once again, we cannot stress it enough that you protect the head! Any sports equipment should be professionally fitted. This will help lessen the chances of a traumatic brain injury if an accident were to happen.
Watch Out for Your Pets!
For the pets, you need to be cautious of them! Yesterday we talked about helping out neighborhood animals. Let’s say you left your garage door open and a bowl of water out to help shelter a stray animal. Well, when you get to the garage in the morning to start your car you need to make sure there aren’t any stragglers underneath! Engines tend to stay warm for an extended period of time after use. This heat naturally attracts the animals. Simply bang on the hood of your car to stir any animals that may be hiding underneath or around the car. Even more so, just be cautious of your surroundings and be on the lookout for your pets.
Check Your Car’s Antifreeze Levels
As the temperature drops below freezing, Antifreeze becomes essential. If you fail to keep tabs on the amount of Antifreeze, you risk freezing your coolant which means your engine will overheat. This could cause a gasket to blow, meaning high costs in replacing them including the labor. Antifreeze helps keep the engine from freezing in the harsh cold and from heating up on the sweltering hot days. A general rule of thumb is to fill your radiator with equal parts water and Antifreeze. This 50 – 50 ratio can keep fluids from freezing to temperatures just past -30 degrees Fahrenheit! Most gas stations make it even easier on you by selling premixed bottles of Anitfreeze.
Check Your House’s Alarms
It is not uncommon for fire departments to see an increase in household fires during the winter; after all, people tend to spend more time in their house because of the cold weather! This tip pertains not only to your kids, but you and your pets as well. Check that your house has the necessary proper fire alarms installed. For existing fire alarms already in place, check that they are properly installed and that the batteries are working! While you are at it, it would be a good idea to check your carbon monoxide detectors as well. Visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website on smoke alarms for SAFETY TIPS HERE
Make Sure Your Chemicals Can’t be Accessed
Antifreeze is essential for cars especially as winter temperatures drop below freezing, but it is very bad for humans and animals. It has a sweet taste that can attract animals and even children. After you have finished checking your Antifreeze levels for your car make sure you clean up properly. Wipe up any spills and make sure to store the Antifreeze and any other chemicals for that matter in a spot where children and pets cannot get to them.
Keep Your Car’s Gas Tank Full
Tip #5 for your cars: remember to keep your gas tank full! Aside from the possibility of being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the winter cold, there are other reasons to keep your fuel tank full. Winter temperatures like the ones we have seen lately, cold and fluctuating, will cause condensation to form on the inside of a gas tank with a low fuel level. That water accumulation slowly drips down and begins to mix with the gas. Since water is denser than fuel, it begins to sink to the bottom of the fuel tank. If that water makes it into the fuel lines, then it’s game over. It could freeze, which will block gas flow to the engine, making your car useless. Forgo the hefty repair costs you will have to pay to fix your car and make sure you keep your gas tank full.
Keep an Eye on Your Kids When They are Out in the Cold
Kid’s love the snow! They love to build snowmen, have snowball fights, build forts, and roll around in the winter wonderland. It is important to keep children active and enjoying the winter weather, but make sure to keep an eye on them. If they look cold or uncomfortable bring them inside and give them a chance to warm up before they continue playing. If they get wet, definitely make sure to bring them inside and have them dry off. It can be hard for kids to understand the potential dangers of being wet and out in the freezing cold, so warm up some hot chocolate and have them take a break before going back outside.
Make Sure Your Pet Stays Hydrated
Even though you want to make sure not to let your pet get into chemicals like Antifreeze, you should be making a conscious effort to keep them hydrated. If your pet spends a decent amount of time outdoors in the winter it is even more important that they are getting enough water. The cold temperatures deplete energy because their bodies have to work harder to keep warm. Make sure that your pet has a full bowl/supply of water, water that is clean and not frozen! In addition to keeping your pet’s water supply full, make sure that if it is outside or in colder temperatures that the container is not metal. Metal containers can cause a pet’s tongue to stick, opt for plastic bowls/dishes instead.
Check Your Car’s Defrosters
Isn’t it a pain when your windshield and windows fog up on the inside of the car? Well, tip #6 should aid in eliminating this problem. The reason the windshield and windows fog up in the winter is due moisture inside the car condensing on the cold glass. Water vapor from our breath or maybe even an open window is enough to start this process. Thankfully, our cars come equipped with defrosters that combat this problem by blowing dry, hot air over the glass surface. That is why you should make sure to check your defrosting and heating units. If they are not working properly, take them to your trusted car mechanic and have them fixed and ready to go for your next ride.
Make Sure Your Children Stay Hydrated
Children need to stay hydrated as well. Keeping kids hydrated is even more difficult in the winter, especially if they spend a decent amount of time outside. The colder temperatures make it harder for the body to keep warm. This extra work naturally causes the heart rate and breathing to increase. In the cold, dry air children lose water through breathing and sweating. Make sure your kids are getting plenty of fluids. Offering warm drinks and food, such as hot chocolate or soup, can be a good way to go about making sure they stay hydrated.
Wipe Paws After Being Outside
As snow accumulates outside, a common practice to remove it is by salting the walkways. Although it makes for easy snow removal, salt is not good for your pets’ paws. Chemicals and salt that are used to melt snow and ice irritate the pads on animal paws. If you can, wipe the paws of your pet after they come in from the outside. Use a damp towel and try to do this before your pet starts licking them! The chemicals and salt could irritate the mouth if not removed.
Check and Replace Your Car’s Wipers and Wiper Fluid
Tip #7 for your cars: check and replace windshield wipers and wiper fluid! In extreme weather conditions, visibility becomes essential for driving safely. Over time, rubber windshield wipers will deteriorate due to cracking and splitting. A general rule of thumb is to replace windshield wipers every 6 to 12 months. Windshield wiper fluid also plays a key role in breaking up ice and snow that accumulates on the windshield.
Turn On the Humidifier
With the winter weather, comes a dry, cold air. This can cause skin and mucous membranes to become dry. Many times in the winter months, people suffer from nosebleeds and eczema. If you or your kids suffer from these winter nosebleeds or dry skin get a humidifier! A humidifier will help add moisture to the air, helping to keep your skin and mucous membranes healthy. Saline nose drops can also help with adding moisture to the mucous membrane in the nose. Lastly, make sure to use a moisturizing lotion, especially after showering or washing your skin.
This One’s for the Horses
One pet in particular will most likely spend the majority of its winter outside fighting the elements. Although not as common as other household pets, a horse needs just as much attention if not more during the winter. Horses should be provided shelter and dry warmth just like any other pet that will be outside for an extended period of time. A horse should have access to a barn or three-sided-run-in which will allow them to escape the wind and cold. A body-clipped horse will require a blanket throughout the winter in addition to shelter.
Check Your Car’s Hoses and Belts
Back under the hood for tip #8 for cars! Generally, every 30,000 miles the hoses and belts underneath the hood should be checked. Regardless if you are getting a tune-up for the winter or just getting air in the tires, it is a good idea to have your mechanic take a look at everything around the engine. The colder weather will cause the belts and hoses to weaken, and the last thing you want is to be stranded waiting for a tow-truck to pick you and your car up!
Practice and Teach What You Preach
A significant amount of the activities that children take part in during the winter need to be learned and practiced in order to avoid or decrease injury! That is why it is important for YOU to teach them how “play” safely and smart outside. For example, when sledding kids should not stand up and ride down the hill like they are snowboarding or skiing. Even though it seems like common sense to you, you’d be surprised at what kids will try and do. Make sure you teach them the correct way to practice winter sports and activities. This will help ensure that they are being safe and potentially avoiding a life-threatening or life-debilitating injury.
This One’s for the Horses… Again
Unfrozen, clean water should be accessible by horses at all times throughout the day and night. Depending on their shelter this may seem difficult. Using heated water buckets or using water heaters throughout the winter can help make sure their water supply does not freeze. Forage is a bulky food like grass or hay, and during the winter months horses should be getting as much of it as possible. Forage is food and food is energy. This will help ensure that the horses are creating enough heat to help regulate their body temperatures in the winter cold!
The 4WD and AWD
Tip #9 goes out to all those who have 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive cars. Just because you have these capabilities does not mean you can drive faster! 4-wheel drive or AWD will not improve braking at higher speeds because it does not improve traction during braking. It does however help to increase traction from a stationary position when you are initially starting to drive. So, it is important to make sure these systems are operating correctly before you are in a situation where you are stuck! The owner’s manual will have information pertaining to the best time to use these systems and how to engage them.
For the children, watch out and listen! If your child is cold then you will know, as there are a number of warning signs. First and most obvious, your child will tell you they are freezing! If their skin is pale, grey, or developing blisters on the fingers, ears, toes and/or nose this is a sign of frost bite. Get them out of the cold and slowly warm them back up to normal temperature. Start with room temperature water, slowly increasing the heat level as they warm up. If they are shivering, slurring their speech, exhibiting signs of clumsiness, or delusional this is a sign of hypothermia. If you suspect they have hypothermia, call 911.
Hang Out With Your Pet
The final tip we have for pets is for you to keep them right next to you. Well, maybe not RIGHT next to you, but stay with them. Keep them inside with you and the family, and they will be happy! Pets generally love human attention and companionship, so make sure you are giving them enough! They will be much happier with their owners as oppose to sitting outside in the cold.
Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car
The final tip for your cars actually has a little bit more to do with you! Keep an emergency kit inside the car with the right supplies. A spare tire and the necessary tools such as, a jack and wrench, to change a flat will be important. Next, extra engine oil, washer fluid and coolant could be important materials to keep in the trunk as well (we touched on these in earlier tips)! Flashlights, flares, and an emergency blank are essential. If you are stuck in low visibility and the car is not starting you will be thankful you came prepared. Going along with this, an extra coat, gloves, and boots can be a lifesaver. Finally, a first-aid kid is important to have regardless of the season.