Easy Guide to Keeping Kids Safe in the Cold

How to Keep Kids Safe in the Cold

Unless you've been stuck under a very, very warm rock, you've probably noticed a chunk of the nation is under an epic cold spell at the moment. The polar vortex has taken hold, and who knows when Mother Nature will let go. What we do know is this: it's coooooold out there.

If you're raising one of those kids who is always losing her gloves or "forgetting" to zip up her coat, welcome to your latest headache: trying to keep the kids safe in the bitter cold.

Do you know how long kids can safely stay outside in the cold? Do you know what they should be wearing? You might be surprised! Here's an easy guide to help keep your family safe:


What Kids Should Wear

Think this is common sense? Maybe if you've been living in a colder climate your whole life, but when the temperatures drop to unusually low temperatures in places that rarely see cold, it can be hard to figure out what's best. Do kids really need snow boots if there's no snow on the ground? What kind of coat is best? Here's what the Center for Disease Control suggests for your kids:

  • a hat
  • a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
  • sleeves that are snug at the wrist
  • mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
  • water-resistant coat and shoes
  • several layers of loose-fitting clothing

Opt for fabrics that are light enough for kids to move around but will hold in the heat.

Warning Signs Your Kid Is Too Cold

Sometimes kids seem like they're resistant too cold, but even when they say they're just fine, there are some tell-tale signs that it's time to get inside:

Shivering -- This is a dead giveaway that the body is losing heat.
Redness/numbness of exposed skin -- This is the number one sign of frostnip, which is a milder form of frostbite. Kids should get inside immediately and slowly be warmed up. Cold hands and feet can be put in warm (but not hot!) water.
Dizziness or weakness -- Both signs that hypothermia might be setting in, it's time to get the kids indoors! If they experience confusion, slurred speech, or drowsiness, this may be a sign of hypothermia and is definitely worth a call to the doctor.
Struggling to catch their breath -- Cold air doesn't just affect the extremities, it can affect the lungs too.

If the skin is gray or waxy or feels hard to the touch, this may be a sign of frostbite. In that case, call your doctor!

When to Keep Kids Inside

When everyone has cabin fever, it's tempting to send the kids out to play, but sometimes it's just too cold to be outside for more than a few minutes. Check the National Weather Service to see if there's a wind child advisory in your area. This will tell you how long you can spend outside before frostbite will likely set in.

Other Tips to Keep Kids Safe

Stay hydrated -- We tend to give our kids water in the summer to make up for what they sweat out when they play, but all those winter layers will make the work up a sweat too! Make sure they're getting plenty of fluids to make up for it.

Keep their clothes dry -- If they're playing in the snow, mittens and other garments can get soaked pretty quickly. But moisture will steal heat from the body. According to the CDC, hypothermia can set in when it's as warm as 40 degrees Fahrenheit if a person is chilled because of wetness.

Use sunscreen -- You may not feel it, but snow reflecting light can give your kids a nasty sunburn. In fact, they're being exposed to twice the sun because they have the sun beating down on them, plus what's being reflected off the white ground.

How do you handle the cold with the kids?


Image via Matelly/Corbis

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