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Looking after children in winter

Cold weather can bring more health risks to children, including viral infections such as colds or flu.

Snow or ice can also increase the risk of accidents and injuries. 

Follow this advice to protect children during winter. This can help to prevent them getting too cold or injuring themselves, especially when there is snow or ice.

Stay safe and warm outside 

Take steps to protect children when they play outside in cold weather.


  • dress them in layers ⁠- a few light layers will keep them warmer than 1 heavy layer

  • keep their head, neck and hands covered ⁠- put gloves or mittens and a hat on them

  • cover their ears to prevent frostbite

  • dress them in warm socks and wellies or waterproof boots

  • take breaks and bring them indoors to warm up for a bit

If your child’s clothes get wet, change them as soon as you get home. Take off any extra layers to stop them from getting too hot when they go inside.


  • do not dress your child in clothes with strings or cords - these can cause serious injury

Playing in snow or icy conditions

Snow and icy conditions can be unpredictable for children to play in.

There are things you can do to reduce the risk of injury.


  • do not let children stand on any body of water that has iced over - it’s not possible to tell how much weight the ice can take

  • do not sledge or slide on snow or ice in the dark

  • do not choose a slope that is too steep or near a road - check for obstacles along the slope, put a helmet on your child and watch them closely

  • do not let small children use sledges or toboggans on their own

Frostbite and hypothermia 

Cold weather increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia in children.


Frostbite is damage to skin and tissue. It’s caused by exposure to any temperature below minus 0.5 degrees Celsius. 

Frostbite can affect: 

  • hands
  • feet
  • ears
  • nose
  • lips 

One or more of these areas might look pale, grey and blistered. Your child may complain of pain, numbness or tingling.

If you think your child has frostbite:

  • take them into a warm area immediately
  • call your GP or an out-of-hours GP service for advice

Urgent advice: Go to your nearest emergency department if:


Hypothermia happens when your child’s temperature goes below 35 degrees Celsius.

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 if:

your child shows any signs of hypothermia, such as:

  • shivering
  • pale, cold and dry skin - their lips and skin may be blue
  • slurred speech
  • slow breathing
  • tiredness or confusion

There are things you can do while waiting for help: 

  1. Move your child indoors and take off any wet clothes. 
  2. Wrap them in a blanket or a dry towel. 
  3. Give older children a warm drink and some sugary food like chocolate. 
  4. Offer your baby a breastfeed or a warm formula feed.
  5. Stay with them and keep them awake.

Staying safe on the road or in the car

Here are some tips on staying safe in your car or on the road:


  • dress in bright clothes and use hi-vis vests or armbands in the dark

  • put your child in a properly fitted car seat or booster seat no matter how short a journey is

  • dress your child in thin layers - thick or bulky clothes could mean they’re not securely strapped into their car seat

  • keep antifreeze away from children


Try to avoid travelling by foot when it's very snowy or icy.

Staying safe and warm inside

It can be hard to keep the heating on if you’re worried about bills. But it's important to keep your home warm. It can help you or your children avoid getting sick. 

Here is some advice for keeping children safe and warm inside your home. 


  • close curtains and blinds in the evening to keep your home warm

  • close doors to block out draughts

  • get your heating system serviced every year - this will ensure it meets safety standards and runs efficiently

  • have your chimney cleaned every year

  • make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are working

  • make sure your mantlepiece or fireplace surround is fitted and secured professionally - if it falls on your child it could cause serious injury

  • always use a spark guard and a fireguard on an open fire - fires and stoves are dangerous for small children

Colds, coughs, RSV and viral infections in children


Do not overdress your baby for sleep. A nappy, vest and babygrow are enough. Do not use a hat unless your GP or midwife tells you to.  

A cellular cotton blanket or a sleeveless baby sleeping bag will keep your baby warm. 

Make sure the room your baby sleeps in is not too warm or too cold. The room temperature should range from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Use a room thermometer to check the temperature.


Never place your baby to sleep next to a radiator, heater or fire. This could put them at risk of cot death (sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS).

Your baby’s sleep temperature

Staying safe during a power cut 

A power cut can make it harder to care for your baby or small child. 

Most appliances will not work during a power cut. This can make it hard to store breast milk or infant formula safely.

Here are some tips to help keep children safe and warm during a power cut: 


  • keep lit candles, matches and lighters out of reach of children

  • keep your floors free of clutter - you or your child could trip if the room is poorly lit

  • keep a torch for night feeds, changes and checking on your baby while they’re asleep

  • charge all your phones and other useful electronic devices if you know there will be a power cut

Feeding your baby during a power cut

Stored breast milk can only be kept for 4 hours at temperatures of less than 20 degrees Celsius. Keep the door of your fridge closed to help it stay cool.

If breast milk has been in a fridge that has not been working for more than 4 hours, unthaw some frozen breast milk instead.

Tips for storing expressed breast milk

Preparing infant formula during a power cut

It can be hard to safely prepare powdered infant formula without access to a kettle and a fridge.

Ready-to-feed infant formula is the safest to use because it doesn't need to be mixed with water and you don't need to keep it in the fridge unless it's opened.

If you have access to a hob that works without electricity, you can: 

  1. Boil 1 litre of water in a clean pan. 
  2. Cool it for 30 minutes in the pan - do not leave it for longer. 
  3. Pour the correct amount of water into a sterilised bottle before adding the exact amount of powdered infant formula. 
  4. Screw the lid of the bottle on tightly and give it a good shake. 
  5. Cool the bottle by holding it under cold tap water. 

Preparing baby formula

Sterilising baby equipment during a power cut

Baby equipment like breast pumps, soothers and bottles need to be sterilised before use. If you normally use a steam or microwave steriliser these will not work during a power cut.

You will need to boil baby equipment for 10 minutes. Or you could use sterilising fluid. Make sure it's suitable for use with cold water and keep it out of reach of children.

Use disposable nappies during a power cut

If you use reusable cloth nappies try switching to disposable nappies during the power cut. Washing nappies can be hard without electricity.

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2023
Next review due: 14 February 2026