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Cold Weather Safety for Children

January 27, 2023

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Keeping kids safe is a year-round endeavor, but when dealing with weather extremes, there’s a lot more to think about. Cold weather safety for children includes dressing appropriately, naturally, but there are other things to consider when sending your little ones outside. Whether your children are headed out to play, walk to and from school, or enjoy a winter sport, here are the top cold weather safety tips you need to ensure your kids enjoy the winter.

Dress Kids Warmly

While your children may say that they’re fine in shorts and flip-flops year-round, you know better. It’s true that they may not feel as cold as Mom and Dad, and that’s because of the “brown fat” they carry, which keeps them warmer. Also, children tend to move around a lot outside, which can help elevate their temperature. But don’t let that fool you; they still need to dress warmly outside, no matter what activity they’re enjoying.

The best way to keep kids warm in freezing temperatures is with layers. Long underwear, sweaters, and coats are common winter wear, and when you layer them on before kids leave to head outside, you’re ensuring they have everything they need to combat the chill. Then, if need be, they can take off a layer or two. Be sure those layers include thick socks (or even two pairs), snow boots, waterproof gloves or mittens, and a hat that covers their ears.

While you might not think of winter clothes as a danger, when considering cold weather safety for children, you need to look at potential obstacles. Loose ties, for example, can get caught on the playground. Just do a quick check for any obstacles before letting them go.

What to Do When Kids Get Too Cold

Even with that layer of brown fat to protect them and layers of clothes, kids are not impervious to the cold. And too often, they don’t even notice how cold they are. After all, if they’re having fun ice skating, skiing, making a snowman, or ice fishing, they’re going to be much more focused on that activity than on getting warm.

There are two major issues that can occur when a child is exposed to the cold for too long: hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia creates a lower body temperature due to overexposure to the cold. If your child cannot seem to get warm, take their temperature. If it registers at 95ºF or lower, they need immediate care; take them to the emergency room right away.

Frostbite occurs when a particular body part freezes. This most often happens in the extremities: toes, fingers, and feet. Symptoms include loss of color and feeling in the frozen areas. Frostbite is apt to coexist with hypothermia, meaning if you cannot get the area warm and back to normal in short order, your cold weather safety for children protocol requires immediate medical attention.

Ensure Cold Weather Safety for Children

In addition to layering up before sending your kids outside, there are other things you can do to keep them safe. These include:

Make them take regular breaks.

Kids who are having fun in the snow won’t come in on their own, so it’s up to you to make them. Pull them inside for 10–15 minutes every one to two hours, depending on how cold it is. While they’re inside, have them take off their layers and drink or eat something warm. What kid wouldn’t want to come inside for a warm cup of cocoa? Once their faces are no longer red and cold, they can venture back out.

Keep them hydrated.

Even when it’s cold outside, our bodies still need to be regularly hydrated. Cocoa is nice and all, but good-old water is the best option for hydration. Since the kids are likely expending energy outside, they need to replenish what they’re losing. Arm them with a bottle of water and encourage them to drink regularly.

Liberally apply sunscreen.

Even on a cloudy winter day, to ensure cold weather safety for children, be sure they have on sunscreen. The sun reflects off snow, making it even harsher on their exposed skin. And while you’re at it, keep on the lookout for windburn, which can be just as painful for little ones. Sunscreen and a warm scarf should do the trick.

Keep Your Children Safe This Winter

Community Choice Pediatrics always has your children’s welfare in mind, whether we’re providing cold weather safety tips or an annual check-up. If you’re in the market for a caring pediatrician, check us out. We’d love to support your children and family.