Here in New England, we’re on the way to another record snow fall year. Barely a month into Winter, and my town is already running out of places to stash the snow! It’s hard to tell what’s wearing on people quicker these days…the constant shoveling or the dipping temperatures.
While shoveling may seem impossible at times, even more daunting is trying to convince stubborn kids that coats, hats and boots are not optional. If your kids are like mine, convincing them that function needs to beat out fashion this season is most certainly an uphill climb!
This time of year, there are three cold-related injuries to think about, all of which can be warded off by dressing appropriately for the weather: hypothermia, frostbite and frostnip.
Hypothermia, frostnip and frostbite are all caused by exposure to the cold and are avoidable with proper thermal clothing and avoidance of outdoor activities during dangerous cold spells. In general, the further below zero the wind-chill falls, the shorter the time it will take for any of these cold-related injuries to occur. Most schools schools all follow very strict guidelines for outdoor recess during cold snaps to keep kids safe from the cold and avoid these cold-related issues. This is why the schools insist that kids have snow suits and boots to play in the snow and why kids are kept indoors during cold weather advisories and when the temperature drops below zero. Encourage your family to follow these same guidelines for home and recreational activities. So, if it’s too cold for outdoor recess, than it’s too cold to build a snowman or hit the slopes.
Cold-related injuries can be very serious and early identification and treatment is essential. Hypothermia develops when the body’s core temperature drops below normal. The body essentially freezes and major systems stop functioning normally. Symptoms result from the body’s attempt to warm up and conserve energy. Early symptoms to watch for are shivering, clumsiness, and slurred speech. If you become concerned your child may be developing hypothermia, get your child in a warm environment and seek medical attention right away.
Frostnip and frostbite are two extremes of the same problem and result from direct cooling and freezing of the skin and underlying structures. Early on the skin turns white and becomes numb and is referred to as frostnip. Frostbite is an actual freezing of the skin and outer tissues. Fingers, toes, ears and nose are the most susceptible. They may appear pale, gray or blistered and the child may complain that the skin burns or feels numb. Frostbitten areas need to be warmed up with warm water. Wrap your child in a warm blanket and give hot cocoa to warm up the inside temperature. If the symptoms do not resolve in a few minutes, call your doctor.
Finally, practice what you preach for winter safety and dress – including the use of helmets. There is no better way to reinforce to a child what is important than a parent willing to follow the same rules – and, yes, ski helmets do come in adult sizes!
(Originally posted January 2005; Updated January 2011)