Snow day: How to keep your kids safe while playing outside in the winter

Jason Bender and Breanna Bender, 8, sled IN the snow with their dog, Lucy, Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at Harbin Park in Fairfield. NICK GRAHAM  / STAFF

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Jason Bender and Breanna Bender, 8, sled IN the snow with their dog, Lucy, Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at Harbin Park in Fairfield. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

While a day of sledding, snowball fights and building a snowman is one of the best ways to enjoy a snow day, it’s important to make sure kids are protected from the cold before letting them run out the door.

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Dayton Children’s Hospital offered the following tips to make sure kids can play in the snow while staying safe and healthy:

  • Dress your child in multiple layers, including doubling up on mittens and socks and wearing insulated boots. Avoid cotton clothing and go with wool or other fabrics to trap heat in the inner layers. Waterproof pants and jackets are good for a top layer.
  • Keep clothes dry. Wet clothing puts a person at risk for hypothermia. Change kids’ socks and mittens when they are wet.
  • Cover at-risk areas such as ears, fingers and toes. Those regions are the most susceptible to frostbite.
  • Have your child wear a hat. Most of the body’s heat escapes through the head. Hats also help cover a child’s ears.
  • Dress your child in bright clothing, especially if playing in deep snow. This helps make sure they can been seen among snow drifts.
  • Have a snack before playing outside. A snack will give your child energy and body heat while playing in the cold.
  • Check on your child every 15 to 20 minutes to make sure they aren’t too cold and don’t have wet clothing on. Bring your child inside for periodic breaks to help them warm up and change into dry clothes.
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Parents and guardians should also remember that during sub-zero and single-digit temperatures it is not safe for kids to play outside, even for short periods of time, according to Dayton Children’s Hospital.

“When temperatures reach 10 degrees or below, parents should really keep their children inside,” says Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager. “It’s rare that we say don’t go outside and play, but in these sorts of single digit, or even negative degrees events, just a few minutes outside can put a child at risk.”

Parents should also know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite.

“Frostbite is characterized by numb fingers, ears and noses, and it can eventually lead to redness and pain,” she said. The skin can sometimes feel hard and look waxy.”

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body has a dangerous decrease in temperature. It can affect brain and muscle functions and needs immediate medical attention.

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If your child is experiencing frostbite or hypothermia, take the following steps immediately to treat the affected areas:

  • Replace wet clothing on a child with warm, dry clothes.
  • Soak the affected area in warm, not hot, water that is around 104 to 108 degrees until the child can feel sensation in the area.
  • Avoid rubbing, which can cause tissue damage to the area.
  • Don’t warm the affected area by a fire or space heater, which could result in burns.
  • Give your child warm beverages, such as hot cocoa, tea or milk.
  • If the child’s skin is discolored or has lost sensation, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

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