December 27, 2016

Ask the Doctor – Tips for You and Your Kids Heading Into the Winter Months

By Bruce Ulrich, MD
Mission Community Medicine Old Fort


Q: What can I do to prevent my child’s skin from drying out in the winter?

A: Dry skin is a frequent problem in winter. Preventing dry skin is much easier than treating it once skin dries. First and foremost, hydration mostly comes from within, and we recommend drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Bathing can also actually dry out the skin. Bathing less often can help to prevent drying. Use an unscented moisturizing cream, or even petroleum jelly in more severe cases, immediately after bathing. When going outside in winter, try to keep covered and warm to prevent moisture loss as well.

Q: Should I worry if my child eats snow?

A: Eating snow has been a joy for children going back as far as collective memory. In general, it is unlikely that eating small amounts of clean snow will be harmful to a child. However, if a child eats any plowed or visibly contaminated snow, it would be best to watch them for any evidence of illness caused by it. There has been some concern raised that snow could be contaminated with small amounts of car exhaust and other fossil fuel burning byproducts, and we recommend against eating large volumes of snow or frequently eating snow. The impact of this possible contamination has yet to be seen. If your child seems to be habitually eating snow, ice, rocks, dirt or other nonfood materials, we do recommend seeing a healthcare provider quickly (but not emergently) to check for anemia.

Q: With the limited hours of sunlight in the evening hours during winter, should I worry that my child is spending too much time with their electronics?

A: Regardless of the time of year, there is always a concern of too much “screen time” for children — including TV, video games, tablets and even smartphones. This is usually a bigger problem in the winter because of the cold and darkness limiting outside activities. We recommend limiting screen time to 1 to 2 hours daily and monitoring content to make sure it is appropriate for their age. Excessive screen time has been shown to be linked to behavioral and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as poor performance in school. It may take more effort and creative thinking to engage your children in other activities.

Q: When is a bloody nose in my child a concern and how should I stop the bleeding?

A: Nose bleeds in children are a very common occurrence and generally not a reason for concern. These are particularly common in the winter with increased exposure to dry air. To prevent bleeding, avoid nose picking, use an over-the-counter nasal saline spray and gently line nostrils with petroleum jelly. If a nosebleed occurs, squeeze the cartilage portion of the nasal septum — the movable part of the nose — for up to 15 minutes without removing pressure. Reasons to seek emergency care include:

  • Excessive or prolonged blood loss
  • Development of new rash or bruising with nosebleed
  • Unable to stop bleeding after 15 minutes of compression

Dr. Ulrich sees patients from the Mission Community Medicine Old Fort practice located at 32 East Main Street in Old Fort. To schedule an appointment, call (828) 659-5741.