Some of the best parts of winter are spending quality time outside with your child. Building snowmen, forts, tobogganing, or skiing – winter is full of fun. Winter can also be dangerous if the right precautions are not taken – fever, frostbite, and hypothermia are real concerns.
Dressing your child warmly is the first step in preventing frostbite and hypothermia when they go outside in the winter. Spending shorter periods outside as it’s colder or windier is also a good idea. If you’re building a snowman, maybe take a break after 30 minutes to warm up inside before finishing your snowman.
A fever is a body’s defence mechanism working to remove damaging bacteria from your body. Normal body temperature is 37°C or 98.6°F, anything over that amount is a fever.
If an infant younger than 6 months experiences a fever, you should take them to see a doctor. Older children can usually be treated at home. Having them rest well and drink plenty of fluids can accomplish this. If their fever lasts over 48 hours you should take them to see a doctor.
To measure a child’s fever, you should use a digital thermometer. Glass mercury thermometers are not recommended. If the child is under 6 years old, place the thermometer under their arm. Hold the silver end firmly against their side for at least three minutes or until the thermometer beeps.
If your child is experiencing a high fever, you can try to reduce it by removing excess clothing, and giving your child water, or diluted juice to drink. If these tactics do not work, Acetaminophen, a fever reducer and pain reliever, is the best medication for a fever. Unless otherwise specified by a doctor, give the recommended dose on the package to help a child reduce their high fever.
Frostbite is an inflammation of the skin from extreme cold, which causes damage to the skin and underlying tissues.
How do you know if your child has frostbite? These are the symptoms:
- Affected area of skin is whiter than the surrounding skin.
- Pain, Stinging
What should you do if your child has frostbite?
To treat frostbite, you should slowly warm the affected area. Shocking the skin with extreme heat or water will not help. What you should do to warm the area is hold it in your hands or armpits or place the affected skin in warm water until the colour returns. Enjoying a warm snack like soup or hot chocolate can help as well!
You should avoid rubbing frostbitten areas or exposing them to more cold. If blisters have formed, do not break them. Instead, protect blisters with a loose dressing.
As frostbite warms, your child may feel pain or burning. Severe frostbite without medical care could cause damage.
Hypothermia is when a person’s body temperature drops below normal. This happens with prolonged exposure to cold air, wind, wet clothing, or immersion in water.
How can you tell if your child has hypothermia? Initially symptoms include uncontrollable shivering along with numbness in hands and feet.
Again, warmth is what your child will need to help treat their hypothermia. Bringing them to a warm, dry place should be the first priority. Removing all wet clothing and replacing it with dry clothes and a blanket could help get the child warm. In addition, covering the head and neck will help children maintain their warmth. Applying mild heat to areas like armpits and groin also helps. You can also share heat, by huddling under blankets.
Warm, sweet, non-alcoholic beverages should be provided because the sugar content helps prevent hypothermia and it’s negative effects. Hypothermia causes the body to burn calories at an excessive rate to stay warm, so a sweet drink can help replenish the energy the body needs quickly.
You should be very careful if your child is experiencing early symptoms of hypothermia and get them out of the cold right away. Hypothermia may be fatal with the following symptoms:
- lack of co-ordination
- fumbling hands
- slurred speech
- memory lapse
- blurred vision
- shivering stops
- stiff muscles
Infants show different signs that you should be aware of. These signs include mottled cheeks, no crying, and weak sucking.
If hypothermia becomes life threatening, call an ambulance immediately.
Stay warm this winter and stay safe while enjoying the snow outside!