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Cold-Weather Checklist

Keep kids warm when the temperature drops.

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A warm hat helps him stay snug all winter.
A warm hat helps him stay snug all winter.

When the weather outside is frightful but your child thinks going out is delightful, it's important to follow a few simple guidelines and know what too much cold looks like and what to do about it. Then you can let him go in the snow, worry-free.

1. Bundle Up
The most important thing is to keep your child properly dressed. Bundle her in warm layers and make sure she wears a hat, scarf, and mittens or some other combination that keeps her head, neck, and hands covered. The body gets cold faster in wet clothing (or in water), so keep little hands and feet dry. If she's making a snowman or enjoying other snow play, make sure to check her clothes and gloves periodically and change wet items before sending her back out to her winter wonderland.

2. Set Limits
Keep tabs on how long your child plays outdoors when it's cold. A few hours spent outside can be fine, but if it's very windy, wet, or cold, the chance of overexposure and consequent conditions like frostbite increase. Bring him inside every 30 to 60 minutes and warm him up with hot drinks like apple cider and hot chocolate while check for signs of frostnip.

3. Beware Frostnip and Frostbite
If your child tells you that she's feeling pain or numbness in her fingers, toes, nose, ears, or any other body part, bring her inside and check for frostnip or frostbite.

Frostnip is like a warning sign for frostbite, and occurs when cold temperatures damage the skin and blood vessels. Frostnip usually affects the face, feet or fingertips and causes numbess and may turn skin white or blue-white.

Frostbite is literally the freezing of the body — from the skin in! Frostbite can make skin feel waxy, frozen, and numb, and can cause blisters. In extreme cases, blood may stop flowing to the area and permanent damage can be done to the nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and even bones. Plus, once an area is frostbitten, it is more susceptible to frostbite in the future.

4. Come In and Warm Up
If you suspect frostnip, remove any circulation-restricting or wet clothing right away. Tell your child to wiggle his fingers or toes to increase circulation. To warm up frostnipped extremities, place his hand or foot in very warm water (just over 100 degrees) until the area flushes and turns pink. For other areas, apply warm towels or cover him up with blankets and let him cozy up with lots of warm drinks.

If he has frostbite, don't warm him up by the fire or with really hot water bottles or heating pads, as frostbitten skin is easily burned. Don't pop any blisters, and if there are a lot of blisters or a blister bigger than a nickel, call your pediatrician right away. Usually, the same techniques used to warm up frostnip will adequately treat frostbite as well, but call your doctor if your child's skin blisters or swells upon warming up, or if it doesn't warm up at all.

5. Especially for Babies
Babies don't have a well-developed ability to regulate their own body temperatures and often haven't learned to shiver. They also have a much higher body surface area to weight ratio, so even a little exposed skin loses a lot of heat.

When the temperature dips below freezing, keep outside time for your little one to a minimum. When you must go outside, bundle her up and keep her warm with your own body heat by hugging her close to you.

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