Here’s a few of the most common considerations and tips for keeping littlies safe this winter, from Sarah Hunstead, author of A life. A finger. A pea up a nose. A practical guide to baby and child first aid.
1. Keep little hands safe from heaters
Parents want a cosy warm pad for their little ones, but keeping cruising toddlers away from heaters can be mega stressful. “Babies and toddlers don’t realise that heaters can be hot – hot enough to cause nasty burns,” explains Sarah. “What would cause a little bit of pain and a slight mark on an adult could potentially cause much deeper burns in kids, as they burn at much lower temperatures than we do. Sarah says the key is to educate toddlers and older kids about touching heaters. “Children can understand that ‘hot = don’t touch’ at a surprisingly young age,” she explains.
As a basic precautionary measure, use a guard around fireplaces and avoid using radiant (bar) heaters. “Keep the heater on a stable, flat surface and a minimum of one meter space clear around the heater,” Sarah advises. “Objects such as clothing and curtains falling onto heaters are a major cause of house fires. And always avoid heaters in the bedroom.”
2. Don’t go overboard with blanket layers
“It can be tempting to keep the little ones wrapped up in 20 blankets to keep them warm at night, but overheating is not a good idea,” warns Sarah. “As a general rule of thumb, dress them in one more layer than you are comfortable in. You may prefer to use a winter weight sleeping bag rather than blankets, so they can’t kick of the sheets. Avoid doonas or loose bedding that could cover the baby’s head, and don’t use hats in bed. If you take the chill off their bedroom, always ensure heating is switched off once they are in the room.” Follow the SIDS and Kids safe sleeping guidelines for more slumber advice.
3. Remember water is still a danger in winter…
“It’s very easy in the cold winter months to scoop the kids out of the bath, and go into the lounge room where it’s nice and warm to pop their pajamas on,” says Sarah. “But a one minute distraction is all it takes for a toddler to wander back into the bathroom, and silently slip into the bath, which could end up in tragedy.” Sarah says it’s paramount that parents always remember to let the bath water out when children are around, regardless of the season.
4. Keep germs at bay
“Viruses love the winter months, particularly the respiratory lurgies,” explains Sarah. “The best way to fight them off is to wash hands – use soap and water before eating, after the toilet, and if someone has a cold, wash hands after wiping noses or coughing into hands.” Another tip: “Keep the kids hydrated and feed them a big variety of fresh, nourishing foods to keep their immune system fighting fit.” Tip: Read Cold Preventing Foods For Littlies for more tips.
5. Do a smoke detector and heater check
It’s easy to assume that everything is in working order, but electrical gear that haven’t been used for a while often make their own rules. “When the weather gets cooler, get your heater serviced and check your smoke detectors,” advises Sarah. “Heaters are a common cause of household fires, so keep them in tip top working order. Make sure the chimney flute is clear, and put new batteries in the smoke detector just incase.
Sarah Hunstead is the author of A life. A finger. A pea up a nose – a practical guide to baby and child first aid. Sarah is also is a mum, paediatric emergency nurse and creator of CPR KiDS, which is a baby and child specific First Aid training company for families or anyone caring for kids. Sarah has a Masters Degree majoring in Critical Care Nursing and has lectured undergraduate nursing students in paediatrics at the University of Technology, Sydney.