Are you having a brutal winter where you live? We sure are here in Philadelphia. Even as a native Canadian, I have to say that this is the roughest winter I can remember in a long time! With this cold weather, day in and day out, comes the challenge of caring for the delicate skin of the little ones in our house. So, I turned to Dr. Kara Shah for some advice that I could use and share with you, my fellow Calm Moms!
Dr. Shah is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Attending Physician, Pediatric Dermatology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Here are her responses to the questions I sent her.
1.How often should kids bathe during the winter?
KS: Most infants in general, regardless of the season, only need a full bath 1-3 times per week; on other days, parents can target washing to areas such as the face, hands, and diaper area. Toddlers and older children also usually do just fine bathing 2-3 times per week. In any season, but particularly in the winter when the air is cold and dry, attention should be paid to limit the time in the bath or shower (ideally 5-10 minutes or less), to use a gentle non-soap cleanser (examples include Dove Sensitive skin, and Cetaphil), and to moisturize after every bath or shower and ideally 1-2 times per day, more if the skin is particualrly dry. Frequent use of emollients helps to counteract the drying and irritating effects of cold, dry air.
2. Should parents be using lotion on their kids? If so, what should parents look for in a lotion?
KS: I think every child should have an emollient applied at least once daily, including after bathing. Children with eczema or sensitive skin benefit from more frequent applications of an emollient. I generally avoid lotions (generally come in a pump bottle) as these usually have alcohols in them, which can be drying and irritating. I prefer cream-based emollients (examples include Cerave, Cetaphil, Eucerin and Aveeno). Some children with very dry skin or eczema may be better with an ointment such as Aquaphor or Vaseline petrolatum ointment. I avoid products that have fragrance or lots of botanical derivatives added (these can be irritating to sensitive skin and can even cause skin allergies) and those products with a long list of ingredients (less is more !)
3. How about lip balm?
KS: Lip balm in great for cold weather or for kids who lick there lips a lot. Plain old Vaseline/petrolatum works just as well, though ! The one benefit that some lip balms do have is sunscreen, which is important to use during the summer.
4. A lot of kids can’t or won’t keep gloves in during the winter. How should parents handle that? Is it dangerous for kids to be outside in these cold temperatures without mittens or gloves?
KS: When the temperature is below freezing, in particular if there is a significant windchill effect, mittens or gloves should be considered mandatory . Frostbite or frostnip (milder cold-induced skin damage that causes only temporary effects) can and do occur in children, who may not recognize the early signs such as itching and numbness. Parents should start placing mittens on their children’s hands when they are infants to get them accustomed to wearing them. No mittens, no playing in the snow!
5. Should parents be worried at all about the harmful effects of the sun during the winter months? Personally, I wear a light moisturizer all year round, every day, with SPF but it never dawns on me to put sunscreen on the kids when it is 10 degrees outside. Should we be doing so? Or, is the exposure to sunlight good for them (Vitamin D etc.)
KS: Even during the winter, children can develop a sunburn if outside on a sunny day for an extended period of time; the sun is reflected off of the snow and ice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children wear sunscreen on exposed skin when outside during the winter for extended periods of time. My kids aren’t snow birds and are rarely outside for more than 15-20 minutes; therefore I don’t use a lot of sunscreen during the winter! If you take a snow and ski vacation with your children, however, and they are outside a lot, sunscreen is recommended. Both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children receive the recommended daily intake of vitamin D through diet and supplementation as opposed to sun exposure.