Winter weather presents special challenges to parents trying to keep their kids healthy in icy conditions and freezing temperatures. In particular, experts at Loyola University Health System warn parents to guard against frostbite and hypothermia, a condition that can occur when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
“These occur more frequently in children because their bodies are different,” stated Tony Pangan, M.D., a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System. “They have larger heads and large body surface area compared to their body mass, which leads to rapid heat loss.”
Dressing their children properly for the weather is one of the most important steps that parents can take to prevent harm from cold weather. Keep moisture away from the skin by layering clothes preferably made of fabrics such as fleece and wool. Cotton should be avoided because once it absorbs moisture, it offers no insulation. Also, parents should make sure children wear hats, which can retain as much as 60 percent of their body heat.
Children should come inside periodically from outdoor playing to warm up and immediately remove wet clothing.
A call to 911 is needed if signs of hypothermia or frostbite occur. Excessive shivering, paleness, bluish, cold extremities, drowsiness or slurred speech are indications of the condition. White or gray skin, blisters and skin that feels numb or burns may be a sign that frostbite has developed on fingers, toes, ears or the nose. Until emergency help comes, parents can place the affected areas in warm water.
When to miss school
With the extra stress of wintry conditions, children may come down with a fever or feel unwell enough to take a day off from school. There are signs that parents can look for to determine when their youngsters should spend a day resting at home.
“Young children’s immune systems haven’t learned to recognize and resist most common viruses,” said Robert Key, M.D., a family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System. “That’s why, until they’re eight or so, kids seem to bring home everything that’s making the rounds at school.”
When children vomit two or more times in a 24-hour period, have severe diarrhea for at least a day or have a fever of 101 or higher, they should be kept at home. Other signs that may earn a day off from school include difficulty breathing, stomach pains that last more than two hours, open mouth sores or skin rashes.
If a child has been diagnosed with conditions such as strep throat or chicken pox, they should not go to school until they are no longer contagious. Any symptoms that seem more serious than a bad cold are reason to schedule an appointment with the youngster’s pediatrician.
Winter sports injuries
Injuries on icy surfaces also occur frequently in the winter, particularly during active sports such as hockey. A study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, which was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reviewed game rules that can limit hockey injuries by reducing aggression among players.
The research indicated that when strict rules against aggression are in place, the number of penalties and injuries go down significantly. In programs in which rules are inconsistent, there is no such improvement.
“Rule changes essentially alter the culture of a sport and clearly define acceptable behavior for players, coaches, parents and officials,” said Michael Cusimano, M.D., a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s.
As a hedge against winter injuries, CalMax Kids from Dr. Newton’s Naturals is a nutritious beverage powder formulated to build stronger bones in kids. It includes 22 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily value of calcium as well as magnesium and vitamin C. CalMax Kids is safe for children ages 2 and older.