2013-01-31 / Columns

Everyday Extension

Keeping your children warm in cold weather
By Acacia Stuckle Extension Agent, Emmons and Kidder Counties acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu • 701-254-4811

“Mom, why do I have to wear gloves? I don’t want to wear them. My hands won’t be cold, I promise.” This is a daily response from my son before we leave the house. He doesn’t like to wear his gloves or mittens. He likes to be dexterous, and they make his hands awkward.

However, it’s especially important for him to dress for the winter weather. Explaining terms like frostbite and hypothermia to an almost four-year-old is not very easy. Consequently, he typically gets the age-old answer, “It’s very cold outside.You have to wear them because I said so.”

If your child is exposed to extreme temperatures—usually for an extended period of time and without appropriate clothing or other protection— he or she could end up in a life-threatening situation.

Frostbite takes place when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to occur on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose, which may become pale, gray and blistered.

Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to cold. This can happen when a child is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing.

Here are some ways to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

• Dress children in layers. Wearing several thin layers of warm clothing will trap warm air and provide more protection.

• Wearing heavy socks or two thinner layers of socks and waterproof insulated boots will protect the feet. Gloves or mittens will protect the hands.

• It’s important to keep your head warm. Hats with earflaps offer the maximum protection.

• Change wet clothing periodically. Keep several pairs of dry socks and mittens handy.

• Do not let children stay out in the cold too long. Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play based on how cold it is. While most children will come inside when they are uncomfortably cold, remind them that if they can’t feel their fingers or toes, it’s time to come inside.

• When possible, avoid taking infants and young children outdoors when it is colder than 40 degrees, as infants lose body heat quickly. If you must take them out, bundle them up.

• When traveling, keep a winter storm survival kit in your car.

• Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If you suspect your child is suffering from hypothermia call 911. Find a warm room or shelter and remove any wet clothing. Give them a warm beverage if one is available. Keep the child dry and warm by wrapping them in a blanket.

• Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, pain and numbness. If your child is suffering from frostbite find a warm room or shelter. Make sure they avoid walking if feet or toes are frostbitten. Soak affected areas in warm (not hot) water. Avoid rubbing the affected area because rubbing could cause tissue damage. Wrap affected area in a soft cloth. If you suspect your child may have frostbite consult a medical professional.

Playing outside can be a great way for your children to get some exercise. Just use caution and remember to dress them appropriately.

If you have any questions, please call me at 254-4811 or email acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu.

In addition, I’d like to congratulate our 4-Hers who participated in the recent archery tournament in Bismarck. They did a great job!

(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, extension.)

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