Keeping Your Kids Safe in the Cold Weather

This winter weather is continuing. In the Northeast, there is a blizzard in the forecast and continued temperatures in the teens and 20s!  Whether it is just walking to school or play dates or just walking to the car, it is so important to protect your children from the cold weather and stay safe.

What are some important safety tips in this cold weather?

In general it is best to limit the time outdoors in the cold and windy weather.  But we all know as parents children can get quite cranky from being indoors all day long, and it is fun to play outside especially when it snows; however you need to be very careful dress your children properly in the cold weather.

Layers!  Layer your child with shirts, sweaters then a coat. You want to make sure that they stay dry and warm. Layers help provide insulation. Always have gloves or mittens, hat and boots. Nothing concerns me more than seeing kids in their strollers or playing outdoors without protection on their hands or head!

I do know, as a pediatrician (and a mom), that it can be a struggle at times to keep winter gear on, but you will need to figure out the best clothing option that works for your child to keep it on to ensure he stays safe.  Letting them choose between two hats for example and what they want to wear helps them keep it on. Every child (and adult) needs a hat in the winter weather! You lose a good percentage of your body heat from the head. Always also pack extra clothing on hand to ensure you have dry clothes for you kids when they do get wet. Even if your kids are dressed properly outdoors, you need to watch them closely.  Take breaks to come indoors so that they do not get too cold.

What can happen if your child gets too cold?

If you dress them well, take breaks to come indoors and watch them closely, most children will do just fine.  If a child does get too cold or is not dressed properly hypothermia or frostbite can occur.

What exactly is frostbite and hypothermia and are there things to look out for to know it may be occurring?

Hypothermia can occur when the child gets too cold and the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Signs include excessive shivering, becoming drowsy, confused, slurred speech and becoming weak. Immediately call 911, take your child indoors, and remove wet clothes and put a warm blanket on her until medical assistance arrives.

Frostbite can occur if the skin is exposed to really cold temperatures. Most often this can occur with fingers, toes, ears and nose. If you see the skin becoming very pale and cold, or your child complains of burning, pain or numbness, immediately bring her inside. You can soak the skin in warm water. Warm washcloths work well for the ears and nose. Do not rub affected areas.  I would suggest avoiding alternate heating measures, such as heating pads, since the skin may be numb and can be burned. If you notice the skin is not turning back to pink, there are blisters or areas of black skin, immediately call the doctor.

Any final thoughts?

In summary, bundle up!  Allow yourself extra time to dress your children properly and prepare for the cold weather.  It can be overwhelming at times, or even a struggle to dress and prepare your children for the cold, but it is so important and well worth the time and effort.