Winter weather beckons, but how do we make sure our kids stay safe while playing outside? Keep winter fun safe and warm with these simple tips.
Your kids have been sitting idle for days, waiting patiently for the big winter snowstorm to arrive. Finally, their dreams have been answered: It’s a snow day! You may be just getting out of bed, but the kids have already raided the closet, grabbed their snowsuits and gloves and are at the door ready to venture outside.
Winter can be a fun time of year, but when it’s cold outside — and you’re not prepared — the season can be downright miserable. Luckily, learning how to keep your kids safe and warm can be easy if you follow these five simple guidelines.
Top Tips: Keep Kids Safe in Cold Weather
1. Dress them in layers: The most important thing is to make sure your kids are properly dressed. Bundle your kids in warm layers — preferably made of fabrics other than cotton, because cotton doesn’t keep you very warm. Thermal or woolen clothing and either full-body snowsuits or snowsuits that clip at the top work best.
Finish up with heavy socks and waterproof boots. If you’re going to be doing a lot of trekking around, you’ll want to wear boots that have good treads for keeping your little one steady on snowy and icy areas.
Depending on how cold it is, some kids may need more layers, some less. But if you’re in doubt, go for more layers to start — they can always come off later.
And here’s a non-negotiable: Whatever they do, always make sure your child leaves their coat on — that’s one layer that should stay!
According to Elaine Cudnik, APRN, with Renown Medical Group Pediatrics, “Keeping the torso warm is a vital part of staying warm. When your torso is warm, it is able to release heat to your extremities — your fingers and toes. This is why keeping that coat on is so important.”
2. Don’t forget to accessorize: When bundling up your child, make sure not to forget a hat to avoid body heat escaping from the head. Scarves, facemasks and earmuffs are also great so your child stays warm longer.
Mittens or gloves – the waterproof kind – are best if you know you will be playing out in the snow. The body gets colder faster in wet clothing (or in water), and fingers and toes are very sensitive to the cold, so keep your little ones’ hands and feet dry.
3. Keep them hydrated: On a hot summer day it might be easier to think of a nice tall glass of water, but staying hydrated in winter is just as important. When you are outside in the cold and breathing hard, you lose a lot of your water through your breath. Warm drinks and soups will keep your child hydrated and heat up their insides when it’s cold. And taking a break to get out of the cold will give your child a chance to warm up.
4. Easy does it: Sometimes when are kids are having fun, it’s easy to lose focus of signs they are getting cold. Pay attention to their behavior and periodically ask how your kids are doing. If they are starting to shiver or their teeth are chattering, or they just look like they could be cold, it is a message that they need to warm up and head inside.
5. Beware of frostbite: If your child tells you that they are feeling pain or numbness in their fingers, toes, ears or any other body part, bring them inside and check for frostnip (a warning sign of frostbite, usually affecting face, feet or fingertips) or frostbite. Frostbite is when the body’s tissues freeze, and it usually happens to skin that is exposed like the face or ears or to fingers and toes. Cudnik explains, “With frostnip, your child’s fingers may look red or irritated. Your child may complain that they feel numb or tingly. With frostbite, the skin looks waxy or pale; this is an emergency and requires medical attention.”
If you do think your child may have frostbite, you want the child to keep the area still. And, if you cannot get to a hospital right away or must wait for an ambulance, Cudnik advises the following: Give your child a warm drink and begin first-aid treatment.
First Aid Treatment
- Immerse frozen areas in warm water (around 100°F [38°C]). If warm water is not available, wrap your child gently in warm blankets or use body heat on the affected area.
- Do not use direct heat such as a fire or heating pad. The skin may be numb and can burn easily.
- Do not thaw the frostbitten area if it’s at risk for refreezing before you get to a health care provider. Skin that is thawed then refrozen again can cause severe tissue damage.
- Do not rub frostbitten skin or rub snow on it.
- Rewarming will be accompanied by a burning sensation. Skin may blister and swell and may turn red, blue or purple. When skin is pink and no longer numb, the area is thawed.
- Apply sterile dressing to the area (be sure it’s not too tight), placing it between fingers and toes if they are affected. Try not to disturb any blisters and keep the wound areas clean to prevent infection.
- Wrap rewarmed areas to prevent refreezing, and have your child keep thawed areas as still as possible. If you have the proper first-aid training, splinting the affected area can help reduce the risk of further injury.
If you ever think your child has frostbite, never stick the frostbitten part in hot water or hold something hot against it. Putting the part in warm water is okay.
With these tips in mind, your children will enjoy their outside playtime. Now let’s just hope for plenty of snow days — safe and happy ones — in our near future!