Winter Skin Savers

Cold weather can be hard on a baby's delicate skin. Learn how to protect your little one from rashes, dryness, and more all season long.

Running Hot and Cold

The first snowfall. Sledding in the backyard with Mom and Dad. There's so much for a baby to enjoy during the winter. Unfortunately, though, it can also be the worst season for your child's tender skin. Cold, dry air can sap precious moisture, and those rosy cheeks you once found so adorable can quickly become leathery and windburned.

"I was absolutely shocked by how much my son Nicholas's skin changed during his very first winter -- not just on his face but elsewhere too," says Karla Duke, a mother of three in Monroe, North Carolina. "His skin was so scaly and dry in places that it felt exactly like a lizard's," she remembers.

Luckily, there's plenty you can do to protect your child from seasonal skin hazards. Here, the experts weigh in with simple, sensible advice.

Running Hot and Cold

Winter poses a triple threat to your child's skin: "The combination of low humidity, cold temperatures, and wind can be particularly rough," says Paul Honig, M.D., a pediatric dermatologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Add in the temperature shifts your baby endures as you shuttle her between the chilly outdoors and the heated indoors, and it becomes especially important to give her skin some extra TLC. These basic steps can prevent many problems or keep them from becoming severe.

  • Spread it on thick. If any areas of your child's skin look or feel dry, immediately apply a generous amount of baby moisturizing cream or a thick ointment like petroleum jelly.
  • Follow your nose. Purchase only perfume-free baby soaps and lotions, which are less likely to be irritating.
  • Get misty. "Using a humidifier, especially in your child's room, can minimize the drying effects of the season," says Anthony J. Mancini, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Northwestern University, in Chicago. For safety reasons, don't place the humidifier near or directly over your child.
  • Be clothes-conscious. Overbundling your child can make him sweat, leading to blocked glands and skin irritation, while underdressing can dry out exposed skin or aggravate a preexisting condition.

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