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Tips for keeping kids safe in the snow and cold

As the snow begins to fall, kids may already be gearing up for outdoor activities.

Before kids head out in the snow for sledding, snowball fights and snowmen making, Dr. Don Shifrin, a clinical professor at the University of Washington, has some advice for keeping children safe while they’re out in the cold.

A good way to keep your kids safe in the snow is to go outside with them, according to Dr. Don. Before they even go outside make sure they’re dressed for the weather with layers, coats, non-slip boots and hats or earmuffs. Hats with tassels are good because they stay on your child’s head more securely.

Another good thing to remember is “when you start to get cold, they’re going to start to get cold.”

Also see | Tips for driving in the snow and ice

Even though they may be running around and working up a sweat, kids should keep on their layers. Once the layers start coming off it might be a good time to take a break to warm up inside. 

What about frostbite?

Dr. Don said it's unlikely to see frostbite here because parents are more aware of it, but frostnip is possible. Frostnip is the numbness that happens when part of the body exposed to the cold for an extended period. It doesn’t permanently damage skin, but the tingling felt once it begins to warm can be painful. Do not run hands or other frost nipped parts of the body under very hot water; lukewarm water is best.

There are two kinds of frostbite: superficial and deep or severe frostbite. 

Skin that has experienced superficial frostbite looks red and turns white or pale and may even feel warm. Superficial frostbite is damaging, and a fluid-filled blister may appear 12-36 hours after the skin is warmed, but the tissue hasn’t died yet. 

Also see | How to protect pipes during freezing temperatures

Deep or severe frostbite occurs when all layers of the skin is affected. Skin will turn white or bluish-gray and may lose all sensation, and joints and muscles may not function. After blistering 24-48 hours rearming, the tissue will harden and turn black as it dies.

When your kids do come inside, get them out of wet clothes and dry their hair to warm them up faster. Running around will use up a lot of a little kid’s energy and fluids, so during the playtime break, give them hot chocolate or chamomile tea or some other hot beverage to warm them up and get ready to go out and play again.