Cold Weather Safety for Kids

Whether your family lives in a snowy clime all winter, or just takes the occasional ski vacation or visit to the mountains, take care to keep your kids properly bundled against the chill with cold weather safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a simple rule of thumb to use when dressing babies and young children for cold weather: Wrap them in one more layer of clothing than you would wear under the same conditions. Use several thin layers, including thermal long johns, turtlenecks, sweaters and coats, to help keep kids dry and warm. And don't forget the boots, gloves and hat. You can lose as much as 40 percent of your body's heat through your head.

Even when they're dressed properly, keep an eye on your kids when they're playing in cold weather. They might be having so much fun that they don't notice how cold they're getting.

Two big problems to look out for are hypothermia and frostbite:

• Hypothermia - Hypothermia sets in when a child's body temperature drops below 95° F. Symptoms include drowsiness, weakness, confusion, slurred speech and uncontrollable shivering. Kids are more susceptible than adults because their bodies have a more difficult time maintaining an even body temperature.

If your child shows signs of hypothermia, call 911 right away. Take her inside, remove any wet clothing and wrap her in warm clothing and blankets, covering her neck and head. If your child is alert and can easily swallow, offer a warm drink and keep her bundled warmly until help arrives.

• Frostbite - Exposure to extreme cold can damage the skin and underlying tissues. Frostbite is most likely to afflict fingers, toes, ears or nose. Earliest signs of frostbite are patches of skin that are unusually pale, cold and dry. Your child might also complain of burning, aching or numbness.

First aid for frostbite includes bringing your child indoors and soaking the frostbitten areas in warm water (not more than 104° F) until they turn pink. You can apply warm washcloths to frostbitten ears, nose or lips. Do not rub the frozen areas. If symptoms are more severe - including blisters or blackening of the skin - seek medical attention.

When your kids are playing out in the cold, keep plenty of extra clothing on hand so they'll have something dry to change into. Luring them indoors with a cup of hot cocoa for an occasional warm-up break will also help keep the chill away.

Christina Elston is a health writer and editor for Dominion Parenting Media and Parenthood.com.

© Parenthood.com, used with permission.

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