December 14, 2020

Why Kids’ Puffy Coats and Car Seats Are a Dangerous Combo

How to keep your little one warm and safe in the car

infant with puffy coat in getting put in care seat

In the middle of winter with cold temperatures and blustery winds, it’s important to keep your little ones all bundled up. But that warm coat can actually get in the way of protecting your children in a car crash.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Bulk doesn’t pair well with buckles

Children shouldn’t wear bulky winter coats underneath their car seat harness. The bulky coats we wear in winter — especially down-filled puffer coats — can make the child car seat’s safety harness ineffective, and unsafe in a crash.

The thing that makes puffer coats warm — that they trap air with lots of loose feathers and down — is the exact same thing that makes them dangerous in the car seat, according to pediatrician Kimberly Giuliano, MD.

When a vehicle accident is extreme, the violent force that’s created by the impact compresses the bulky coat layers and can throw a child forward against the straps. Even if the child remains in the seat they risk injury to their chest, head and neck.

“Those big bulky coats cause too much separation between the belt and the child,” Dr. Giuliano says. “In a crash, the child is at risk for slipping out from under the straps.”


Even in less intense crashes, a bulky winter coat allows too much movement in that space, which can result in head and chest injuries, Dr. Giuliano says.

Tips for a proper fit

Dr. Giuliano recommends that you remove your child’s winter coat once you’re inside the car.

After you strap them in snugly, cover smaller children with a blanket or put the coat on them backwards with their arms through the armholes. Loose blankets are not recommended for young infants under 1 year of age who may not be able to get the blanket off their face.

“The child may fit in the car seat with their coat on and the buckle closed, but it doesn’t mean that the buckle is holding them tightly in the seat,” Dr. Giuliano says.


“The key is that the seatbelt needs to be tight against the baby and not be separated from the baby by layers of cloth or down,” she says.

To test if their coat is too thick for a car seat, try these steps:

  1. Strap your child into the seat with their coat on.
  2. Undo the straps without loosening them and remove the coat.
  3. Re-fasten the straps and see if there’s enough room to fit your hand in between the straps and your child.
  4. If there’s room for your hand, the coat is too thick to wear in the car seat.

“It’s very important that the harness is tight enough so you can’t pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger,” Dr. Giuliano says. “Any extra slack in the harness can be very dangerous.”

Related Articles

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Two people standing in the cold.
November 29, 2023
10 Colds Not To Catch This Winter

The flu, RSV, COVID-19, pneumonia and more typically circulate during cold weather months

Parent breastfeeding baby on bed, against the headboard.
November 27, 2023
Looking for Foods To Increase Your Milk Supply? Think Big Picture

No single food will increase your milk, but an overall healthy diet will help

Parent uses manual baby aspirator to open up nasal passages of baby.
November 22, 2023
Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator

Keeping your baby’s airways clear of mucus helps with breathing and feeding

Two different vaccines and needles displayed in foreground.
November 22, 2023
Which Vaccines Can You Get at the Same Time?

Getting routine vaccinations together can save you time and may be more effective

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 22, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Toddler drinking from a cup while at the table during dinner.
November 21, 2023
Toddler Drinks — What Does the Research Say About These Products?

They aren’t unhealthy, but they’re probably a waste of money

person drinking coffee at computer at night
November 15, 2023
Is It Bad To Drink Coffee Late at Night?

Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, a late-night cup may be just fine

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try