Keeping your kids warm … even in Wisconsin winters

This winter has been pretty mild, which makes colder temperatures seem even colder. Up until a few weeks ago, I’ve seen many children going to school in nothing more than hooded sweatshirts.

When temperatures drop again (and they will), it’s time to bundle up and make sure your kids stay safe in the cold. Remember that children are more vulnerable to the cold weather than adults, so be sure to take time to dress them warmly.

Follow these tips to help keep your kids warm this winter:

  • Watch the weather forecast. In extreme cold with high winds, frostbite may develop in just minutes. Plan your outdoor activities on days with more mild conditions.
  • Dress in layers. The layer closest to the skin should be a thin material that can draw moisture away from the skin. The next layer(s) should be warmer, insulating materials, like fleece or wool. The final layer should be a waterproof, wind-resistant material.
  • Choose the right clothing.The ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes are most commonly affected by frostbite. Essential clothing includes:
    • Hat.
    • Face protection.
    • Eye protection in extreme conditions or if your child is participating in winter sports.
    • Mittens, which provide more warmth and protection than gloves.
    • Two pairs of socks. One pair with moisture-wicking material against the skin and another thick, warm pair made of material like wool.
    • Warm, waterproof boots.
  • Make sure that all clothing fits properly. Clothes that are too tight or don’t completely cover the skin may cause increased exposure to the cold.
  • Change wet clothing as soon as possible. Body heat is lost very quickly when the skin is wet.
  • Watch the time. Everyone has fun playing in the snow, especially children. They may not realize how cold they are, so be sure to have them come inside after a reasonable amount of time.
  • Know the risks. Children with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes may be at increased risk for injury in the cold. Teens who drink alcohol also are at risk, as drinking alcohol may reduce body temperature.

After being outside, take the time to ask your children if they feel very cold, numbness or clumsiness in any parts of their body. If so, slowly warm the area by running warm, not hot, water over the area. Do not rub the area or apply heat packs, as this could cause further injury. If you notice blistering or a strange color to any areas on the skin, contact your child’s doctor for further advice.

Winter months can be long, but with the right preparation we all can still get outside and have a good time. Be safe and have fun!

Cynthia Running, MD~ Cynthia Running, MD, pediatrician, North Shore Pediatrics

North Shore Pediatrics is one of 17 local primary care practices affiliated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The clinic is located in Mequon, Wis., and offers convenient evening hours. To schedule an appointment at North Shore Pediatrics, call (262) 240-9744.

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