Be aware. Ears, nose, fingers, and toes are most vulnerable to frostbite, which can occur with prolonged exposure to temperatures below freezing. Symptoms include aches in the extremities or a white or waxy appearance of the skin, or a feeling of hardness. Call your doctor immediately if this is the case. He’ll likely advise you to use warm water (not hot) to slowly raise the temperature of the affected area before seeking medical treatment.
Watch the weather. Even a short time outside in very cold temperatures can put you at risk. Before planning outdoor activities, check the forecast. If you’re going to be in a remote area, take extra supplies such as a change of clothes, water, a blanket, and a cell phone. Let others know your plans.
Dress right. Loose-fitting, warm layers are best for preventing frostbite. Choose wool or high tech fabrics; avoid cotton, which does not retain heat as well. Thick socks and insulated boots are a must, along with hats, scarves, and mittens. Have an extra pair of dry mittens available to swap out if the first ones get wet. Offer your child a snack before she goes out to give her energy, which will warm her up.
Stay dry. Your core loses heat when wet. No matter the temperature, bring your child inside immediately if any water soaks through his snow pants, jacket, or boots.
Source: Kate M. Cronan, M.D., medical editor for KidsHealth.org and practitioner of emergency medicine at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware
Eliana Osborn lives and works in Yuma, Arizona with her husband and two young sons.
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