By Karen Sheehan, MD
The temperature is dropping, but chances are your child’s energy level is not – especially if there’s snow on the ground. While playing outdoors in the winter does require more preparation than summertime activities, there are a few simple precautions you can take to keep your child safe while they sled, skate and build snowmen.
Layer up - Layers help maximize warmth.
- The first layer should be made from synthetic materials like polyester, which can wick sweat away from the skin.
- The middle layer should serve as an insulator. Fleece, wool and down make excellent insulators.
- The outer layer should act as a barrier to rain and snow, but should let moisture escape. A breathable material, such as Gore-Tex, is ideal.
Wear a hat – Although it’s an old wife’s tale that up to 50% of heat loss from the body comes from the head, an uncovered head loses a lot of heat; hats are an easy fix.
Cover hands – Giving your child mittens is a great idea – they do a better job of preventing heat loss than gloves do.
Protect skin from the sun – Even though the sun might not seem as strong during the winter months, sunburn is still a risk, especially when reflective snow is on the ground. Apply sunscreen to any areas of your child’s body that may be exposed, especially the face.
Keep hydrated – When it’s hot outside, it’s easy to remember to drink water. But staying hydrated is important in winter months too. People sweat even when it’s cold, so make sure kids drink water or sports drinks to replenish lost fluids.
Know the signs – Too much exposure to extremely cold temperatures can have serious repercussions:
- Hypothermia is the inability to generate enough heat to maintain a normal body temperature. Early signs of hypothermia include, shivering, confusion and drowsiness. Anyone with these symptoms should be brought in from the cold immediately.
- Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form in the body’s tissues. Keeping the skin covered and dry can help prevent frostbite.
Stay warm and have fun out there!