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Protecting Your Child’s Skin in Winter

3:00

Between the cold weather outdoors and the dry heat indoors, your child’s skin can become dry, itchy and irritated.

Dry skin is a common problem in winter because as the humidity level drops and the air cools, the water in your skin evaporates more quickly. Babies and small children’s skin is very delicate and more susceptible to drying out.

As the temperatures drop outside, we naturally tend to spend more time indoors. This time, it’s the heat in the house that sucks the moisture out of the air. Dry indoor air not only dries out your skin, it also dries out your mucous membranes, leading to dry, chapped lips, dry noses (nosebleeds), and dry throat (hoarseness, sore throat).

There are several ways you can help combat these skin irritating scenarios.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. The general rule is the thicker the better. If your child's skin is still dry even with daily moisturizing, try switching from a lotion to a thicker cream or ointment. Ointments are best at keeping moisture in the skin, but they can feel greasy. Just use small amounts and gently rub it into the skin. Creams rub in without leaving a greasy feel on the skin.

You might also want to consider moisturizing twice a day – once after bathing and once during the day. If your child doesn't have the patience for a midday slather, you might let them listen to a favorite song or watch a video while you apply the moisturizer. Or, if he or she is old enough, let them do it by themselves, if that makes the routine more agreeable.

Make sure that your child is well hydrated. Dry skin lacks moisture. Offer your child plenty to drink year-round to replace the moisture that's evaporating from his or her skin. If your child is still a baby, stick with breast milk or formula for at least the first six months, unless his doctor advises otherwise.

Keep in mind that drinking a lot of water won't do anything if you don't moisturize as well. It's like pouring water into a bucket with a hole, says Seth Orlow, Director of pediatric dermatology at New York University School of Medicine.

Without moisturizer to hold in the water, your child's skin won't properly hydrate.

Trim back on bath time. Bathing dries a child's skin because it removes the skin's natural oils along with the dirt. Instead of a 30-minute bath, cut bath time down to about 10 minutes. Use warm water – not hot – and soap up sparingly. In fact, Orlow suggests using a fragrance-free, soap-free cleanser, which is much less harsh than regular soap.

Once you take your child out of the bath, quickly pat him dry with a towel, and then apply moisturizer immediately. Applying the moisturizer within minutes of taking your child out of the tub will seal in the water that's still in his skin from the bath.

To help with the dry air inside the home, make sure that you run a humidifier during the night when your little one is sleeping. Humidifiers can help soothe dry sinuses, bloody noses and cracked lips. They can also help ease symptoms of a cold or another respiratory condition.

When using a humidifier, make sure it is maintained properly and kept clean to avoid bacteria and mold. Find out what humidity levels are recommended by the manufacturer.

When outside, shield your child’s lip with thin layer of petroleum jelly or lip balm to create a barrier against the elements.

Protect against frostbite. Dress your baby in mittens and a hat or hood, and don't stay out too long. Extend the cover on your stroller to block the wind. If your baby's skin looks red, use a warm washcloth to restore circulation. This may take several applications over a period of time. Call your doctor if her skin color isn't normal in a couple hours.

Chapped skin, which gets ruddy, peels, and even cracked, usually strikes the face, bottom, or spots where skin rubs, like the folds at the wrists. "Chapped skin is basically dry skin that has become inflamed," says Peter Lio, MD, attending physician in dermatology at Children's Hospital Boston. Blame anything irritating: wind, friction from clothing, drool on the chin, a runny nose, or a wet diaper.

Spend as little time in the elements as possible, and bundle him up when you do go outside. Using a thick moisturizer such as Eucerin, Aquaphor, or petroleum jelly on your baby's cheeks (or other problem areas) will add to his natural barrier and help treat any skin that's already chapped.

It may be downright cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep your kids indoor 24/7. If you bundle your little one up in layers and cover their head, feet and hands, apply balms and preventative creams– they should be able to be outside for short periods – depending on the temperature and wind chill.

One other little fact that may surprise you, kids can get a heat rash if they become overheated from too many layers of clothing. Make sure to keep an eye on how they are doing and if you think they are getting overheated, have them come inside, rest a bit and remove some of the extra layers.

Story sources: https://www.babycenter.com/0_dry-skin-in-children_1515109.bc

Wendy Toth and Rebecca Felsenthal, https://www.parents.com/baby/care/skin/infant-winter-skin-symptoms/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/humidifiers/art-20048021

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