Boy, what a difference a couple days make! This past weekend, I was so excited that temperatures were warm enough to run errands on my bicycle. Not so this morning. This morning, we were greeted with a wind chill of -14 degrees.
For those of you who are not sure what a “wind chill” means, that is the number assigned to what the temperature feels like if you factor in the wind. For those of us here in the Midwest, it just means brutal cold! And while yes, we should expect January to be a cold month, we should never underestimate the consequences of over-exposure at this time of year.
Here are some things you can do to make sure that you (and your kiddos) are safe this winter:
Have a hearty breakfast.
A hearty, nutritious breakfast is a good idea for every person, every day. But it’s especially true if you have to brave the cold at the school bus stop. This very important meal is called breakfast because it does just that: breaks the fast that took place during sleep. It also starts the body’s metabolism process which will help to warm the body. Our favorite breakfast foods on cold mornings include a warm bowl of oatmeal or some French toast with a slice of turkey bacon, along with organic fruit or juice and some skim milk. A cup of warm cocoa would be a welcome treat on an especially cold morning.
Layers, layers, layers.
While your son might feel comfortable in just a pair of jeans and a hoodie or your daughter may insist on that cute skirt she got for Christmas, the wind will cut right through single layers to the skin. A pair of snug fitting long underwear or a pair of tights under that outer layer are a good idea for kids. Boots with an inner layer should be worn even in the absence of snow to keep toes warm (while shoes are transported in the backpack). A sweater or sweatshirt over a long sleeved shirt should be worn underneath a warm winter coat.
Cover exposed skin.
When the winter air becomes dangerously frigid, it is vitally important to cover as much exposed skin as possible. A wind chill of -14 degrees means that exposed skin can suffer frostbite in as little as 10 minutes. A warm hat (not a baseball cap) is essential to hold heat in. Children lose body heat through their heads much more quickly than adults do. Ears should be completely covered because they are especially sensitive. If your little one prefers ear muffs, a hat or hood should still be used to hold that heat in!
A warm winter coat, preferably with an inner lining, is a given and should be zipped and buttoned up. Mittens are a better bet than gloves for little ones because mittens allow children’s fingers to benefit from the friction involved. Finally, a scarf around the face is extremely important. It should cover both the mouth and the nose to keep them safe from exposure.
Even if your child does not have to walk to school or wait at a school bus stop, layering and covering exposed areas is always a good idea during a cold snap. Even teenagers need to use common sense at this time of year. While my teen is not fond of being bundled head to toe, I try to remind him of the worst case scenarios (car could break down, school could be evacuated, etc.) so that he’ll understand the benefit of good preparation.
Finally, please remember your animals! Frostbite and hypothermia do not just affect humans. If we are suffering the effects of brutally cold temperatures, your animals are too. Please bring them inside and keep them comfortable. They need to have adequate food and water for their bodies to work properly and they need to be sheltered from the cold and wind. Sadly, there are people who will go to great lengths to keep their children warm, but don’t give a second thought to the “outdoor” dogs and cats.
Winter is a fun time of year and yes, most of us here in the Midwest are used to the cold. However, some easy steps and common sense will go a long way in keeping you safe so that you are able to enjoy all that Winter has to offer. Have fun and stay safe!
To your health and happiness,