by Michael Kabel

    The cold weather months can be a special source of anxiety for new parents. Babies - delicate under the best of conditions - are especially susceptible to any number of health problems as the temperature drops. That's because in very small infants and children, the body's thermoregulatory systems - the processes by which heat and warmth are controlled inside the body - are still developing. Mothers and fathers may react to this vulnerability with alarm, and even panic. What to do to protect babies from colds, infections, and painful sinus problems?
    The answers are surprisingly simple, and borrow on many of the practical, no-nonsense advice passed down to us from previous generations. Of course, the most logical means of keeping a baby warm is keeping them clothed, but in the right kind of clothing. Layering clothes may work to keep body heat in, but can also dry out or chafe a baby's delicate skin. Use thermal clothing whenever possible, or quilted goods, and be sure to keep the baby’s skin moisturized. This will prevent painful discomfort and at the same time help the baby trap his own warmth beneath the skin. When traveling outdoors, make sure a waterproof outer layer surrounds the baby's other clothing. This will insulate and also protect the inner clothing's material from getting soggy. Another vital tip is to keep the baby close whenever possible. In early months, children depend on their parents or adult figures for warmth. While it's not necessary to hug them close, remember that children will also often mimic their elders, so be sure to keep gloves and hats on when necessary in their presence. 

Keeping the child warm at home presents other difficulties, as well, but can be managed with a few astute, vigilant strategies and practices. When heating the child's room, be sure to keep a constant, moderate warmth in the room at all times. A wildly variant temperature - too cold in the day, too warm at night - increases the chance of a child catching cold. Also, keeping a child's room too warm may dry out and aggravate the sinuses, increasing the risk of infection, or contracting the flu or pneumonia. Hot, stuffy air can also harm the child's lungs. So, when warming the child's room or nursery, maintain a consistent level of warmth by setting a temperature - 72 degrees is ideal - and leaving the thermostat alone. 

Under no circumstances should a child be left alone with a space heater. Though modern versions of these familiar heating elements come equipped with safety features, the possibility of injury or fire remains too great. Likewise, do not leave a space heater burning alone at night with a child. Accidents stemming from such well-intentioned actions are among the leading causes of infant death, both in America and the world over. Central heating is definitely preferred, especially in bitterly cold areas where temperatures remain severe for weeks and months at a time.