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.
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.
Your baby's skin is so soft and delicate that it's bound to suffer from some irritation this winter, no matter how cautious you are. Here's how to treat the most common problems.
When the wind is howling and the temperature is plummeting, it seems only natural to treat your baby to a long, warm bath. But watch out: Too much tubtime can dry out his skin.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants don't need to be bathed every day. But if your baby finds a daily bath soothing, you don't necessarily have to change your routine. "Just make sure the bath lasts no longer than ten minutes and that the water is lukewarm, not hot," says pediatric dermatologist Anthony J. Mancini, M.D. Afterward, pat your infant dry, then apply a thick cream or lotion. "Moisturize within three minutes of the bath, while there are still water droplets on the skin, or as soon as is practical," Dr. Mancini says. "This will help seal in the moisture."
Originally published in the February 2003 issue of Parents magazine.