Severely cold weather is tough on all of us, especially the little ones. Doctors say kids need extra protection when the temperature plummets and bundling them up is just the beginning when it comes to safeguarding their health.
Children are more prone to develop hypothermia (lowered body temperature) when the body’s rate of heat loss is greater than the rate of producing heat. Children also have a relatively larger body surface area that contributes to more rapid heat loss. Also, 50% -60% of the body’s heat loss may take place from the head and hands. Hypothermia is present when the core body temperature drops below 35 degrees Centigrade. Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, euphoria and possibly the appearance of intoxication. Some specific diseases or conditions including seizure disorders and sickle cell anemia are associated with impaired thermoregulation. Some medications may also affect the body’s ability to tolerate cold weather.
Schools & Cold Weather
School systems must be flexible in making decisions about the extent of childhood exposure to low temperatures. Although ideally children can wear enough clothing to provide adequate protection from very cold temperatures and wind-chill factors, students frequently do not take care to dress warmly enough to provide adequate protection. It is not unusual to see students without hats and gloves, and with coats unbuttoned despite the cold weather. Because of this unreliability of childhood behavior, school systems must take extra caution and lean toward the side of safety for all children (poorly-dressed or otherwise) in cold-weather situations. There is no inherent value to having children go outdoors for school activities or recess in very cold weather, thus indoor activities are a preferable substitute. Waiting for busses is also a consideration, as brief cold exposures in very cold weather can be harmful (resulting in hypothermia) and unpredictable events may happen (bus breaks down) greatly extending the time of exposure to the cold. School policies should take into account such unforeseen circumstances in their decision-making.
Be Sure Not To Overheat Your Child In Cold Weather!
Dressing infants and toddlers to stay warm during the cold, winter months is very important. Dressing children in warm pajamas, covering them with thick quilts and turning up the heat in their rooms at bedtime is a common practice. When outdoors, dressing in layers provides extra warmth, however, it is equally important to remember that over bundling can lead to a child being overheated.
In addition to excess clothing and covers, elevated temperatures in the bedroom can also lead to overheating. Look out for the following warning signs and follow some simple recommendations to prevent overheating of infants and children.
- Constant sweating; damp hair or dampness around the neck and collar area.
- The presence of heat rash or excess redness in the face.
- Rapid breathing and restlessness.
- As a general rule when outdoors in cold temperatures, dress infants and children in layers and always make sure to cover their heads with a hat or hood. Layers hold in more heat and provide more comfort as opposed to a bulky jacket. If jackets or coats are used in addition to layering, be sure to remove them when in heated areas. It is recommended to remove a child’s jacket when strapped into a car seat, particularly if the car is heated. Remember, if you are hot or uncomfortable with your jacket on, chances are your child is too.
- Keep your baby’s face and head clear of blankets and other coverings during sleep to avoid suffocation. Consider using sleeper pajamas instead of blanket. If using a blanket, place baby in the back sleeping position with his/her feet at foot of crib with blanket no higher than the baby’s chest and tuck blankets in around the mattress – not the baby’s body.
- Avoid putting your baby to sleep in the family bed with parents and siblings. Adult bedding increases the risk of overheating, and suffocation – therefore increasing the risk of SIDS. If a mother chooses to bed share with baby to encourage breastfeeding, be sure to follow these safety precautions: Use a firm mattress and avoid pillows, quilts or heavy blankets near or under infant; place baby on back his/her back; and limit bed sharing to mother and baby.
- Educate babysitters, child care providers, grandparents and all other care givers about the risks associated with overheating, over dressing and SIDS.
Top 10 Cold Weather Activities For Kids!
- Visit the library:Check your local library as well as those in the surrounding neighborhoods. Many libraries offer movie screenings, crafts, story times, etc. for children of all ages. They also usually have a selection of toys, puzzles, games, DVDs, and of course books.
- Shopping malls:Many shopping malls now have enclosed play areas where children can run and jump. It’s a good place to let the kids burn up their excess energy. Though there is often a security guard patrolling the play area, they are not day care providers! Never leave your child unattended here!
- Park District Programs:Our park district offers an assortment of classes for children of all ages. Dance, music, art, and many others to keep the kids occupied.
- Movie Theaters:Lots of G rated movies are out right now. Some theater chains even have special showings for infants. Don’t go there on an empty stomach, or you’ll go broke!
- Chuck E. Cheese:Be sure to look for coupons in your Sunday paper for discounts on tokens and pizza.
- Play in the snow:Go sledding, make snow angels & snowmen, build snow forts, and have snowball fights. Be sure to bundle everyone up and have hot chocolate and soup ready afterwards.
- Make crafts at home:Paint, color, or make holiday cards, ornaments, and decorations. Have your kids make and write their own thank you cards for all the gifts that they have received. This is also a great time to write thank you cards to police officers, fire fighters, military personnel, etc.
- Cook with your children:Encourage your kids to make sandwiches, salads, even microwavable recipes and baked goods. Children who participate in preparing their food are more likely to eat it. This is also a great way to teach healthy eating habits. Some cooking schools, community colleges, or park districts offer cooking classes for children.
- Donate unused toys and clothing:Ask your children to go through their toys and clothes. They should sort them into three piles: keep, donate, and garbage. This will de-clutter your house and also teach them the value of helping others.
- Play with your kids!Sometimes all your kids need to be happy is you! Take the time to devote your full attention to them. That means turn off the computer and TV, let the answering machine get the phone, and let the dishes and laundry wait.