The temperature is dipping lower and lower. In some states, snow is piling on the ground, and your young children are itching to go outside and play. Winter weather may bring joy to the kids but preparing them to stay safe outside can be an overwhelming task.
Even if you’re just running to the grocery store with your children, dressing them correctly for the cold is important. Young children don’t have the same tolerance to cold weather that adults do, which puts them at greater risk of experiencing hypothermia and frostbite if exposed too long.
So how can you help prevent this? Here are five tips to consider that may help keep your child safer when the temperatures take a dip:
1. Check the wind chill. If the temperature or wind chill is below -15° F, avoid having your child play outside. Children lose body heat quicker than adults and exposed skin may begin to freeze within minutes in those conditions.
2. Dress your child in several layers of light clothing. A rule of thumb is typically one additional layer than what you are planning to wear outside. Start with fitted clothes, like a long-sleeved undershirt (thermal) and long underwear, followed by a warmer sweater and top with a heavy coat and waterproof snow pants. This may help keep your child warm while avoiding overheating. Avoid cotton clothing and jeans, as they might not keep your child warm and may make things colder, if they get wet.
3. Throw on a hat, mittens and boots. A warm hat should cover your child’s ears. Waterproof mittens keep their little fingers warmer than gloves – lined mittens are recommended over knit. Warm, water-wicking boots will help keep their feet dry and cozy.
4. Remove bulky coats and snowsuits when riding in car seats. If you were to get into a car accident, a fluffy jacket would flatten, leaving space between your child and the harness. This could cause them to slip through and be flung from their seat. Buckle them into the seat without the jacket, then tuck a coat or blanket around them, over the straps.
5. Try a one-piece sleeper for naps or bedtime. Blankets, pillows and loose bedding can be a suffocation hazard for babies. For babies under 12 months, keep blankets out of the crib. Try a one-piece sleeper or a sleep sack on top of cotton pajamas or snuggly fleece PJs for added warmth. Once your child turns 1, you may use a lightweight blanket tucked under the crib mattress and reaching only as far as the child’s chest.
Different clothing items are needed depending on how cold it is. Consider these tips:
1-2 layers on top
Warm, waterproof shoes
2-3 layers on top
Outer layer coat to keep out wind and wet snow
1-2 layers of pants
3+ layers on top (one insulating)
2+ layers of pants
Outer layer jacket
Face mask or neck warmer
Warm, thick hat
Even if your state isn’t covered in snow, it’s still recommended to take these precautions. While hypothermia typically is associated with areas that experience severe winters, it is also seen in southern states with milder climates.
In addition, your small children may not be able to indicate they are cold, so it’s important to be aware of these symptoms.
Signs of hypothermia include:
- Bright red and cold skin
- Very low energy
- May refuse to eat
- A temperature below 95 degrees
Signs of frostbite include:
- White or grayish-yellow skin
- Unusually firm, painful or waxy feeling skin
If you notice any of these symptoms, head inside and seek medical attention. In the meantime, wiggle the affected area as much as you can to increase blood flow and if possible, hold that area against another warm part of your body. Do not stick the area in hot water or against a hot object. Use blankets or warm water to slowly raise their body temperature.
For more information about frostbite and hypothermia, see the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) infographic linked here.