Children are particularly susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia when the weather is extremely cold. If possible, it may be safer to keep children inside when temperatures drop to dangerous levels. If children must go outside for school or wish to go outside to play, it is important to dress children very warmly. It may be necessary to cover all exposed skin, as certain temperatures may put children at risk of frostbite within minutes.
Layering clothing can help keep children’s body heat in and can prevent wet layers from affecting the overall warmth. A good rule of thumb is to put one extra layer on a child than would be on an adult. If children wear layers and then have to go into a building, it is easy to remove a few layers for comfort and restore layers after leaving the warmth of the building.
Beware of Hazards
Scarves and hood strings present a strangulation hazard for very young children. It is important that these risks be mitigated and watched when children are playing outside. Just a few minutes of inattention can cause tragedy. Bulky coats also present a hazard in the car. Coats should be removed before children are strapped into car seats. Bulky coats may prevent the straps of the car seat from keeping the child in the seat and certain materials may slip through belts.
Responding to Medical Risks
If children complain that extremities like fingers, ears, or toes are numb, it may signify frostbite. The child should be given a warm drink and warmed slowly with lukewarm water. The areas should not be rubbed. If the areas still feel numb or cold after a few minutes have passed, medical attention should be sought. If a child is shivering violently after being outdoors in the cold, it may signify hypothermia. If the child becomes lethargic or starts to slur speech, medical attention should be sought.