Many parents keep their children inside when temperatures start to drop. But there is a winter wonderland of activities available for kids, from sledding to skiing to playing on sports teams.
The key is to make sure you know how to keep kids safe in cold weather. Katie LaRue-Martin, AT, MPH, team lead athletic trainer at Kettering Sports Medicine, breaks down what parents need to know.
- Watch what you eat—and drink!
Although we tend to think about dehydration more in the hot summer months, proper hydration is just as essential in the wintertime. A general rule of thumb is that for activity that lasts under an hour, water alone is enough to stay hydrated. If activity lasts longer, add hydrating drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates. Make sure children are getting nutritious snacks both before and after exercise.
- Make modifications
Don’t be afraid to modify activity time and intensity based on the weather. For example, if conditions are snowy or icy, children will need to get inside sooner to warm up. And always make sure that children are adequately dressed for cold temperatures.
- Dress for the weather
“Athletes should wear an appropriate amount of clothing based on their activity,” says LaRue-Martin. “They should cover as much skin as possible and change out of cold, wet clothes into dry clothes as needed.” Young children should be dressed in layers, with gloves or hats as needed.
- Know the early signs of cold injury
Parents should be aware of any early symptoms of a cold injury or illness, says LaRue-Martin. Some of these include changes in skin color, stiffness, tingling, vigorous shivering, fine motor skill impairment, increased fatigue, apathy, and amnesia. If any of these symptoms are present, seek medical attention right away.
- Have medical care on the map
If a parent observes any cold injury symptoms or other injuries in their child, the child should be taken to appropriate medical care. For falls, sprains, or minor lacerations, parents can take children to the closest urgent care facility. For symptoms of cold injury, seek emergency medical care.
- Pay attention to your weather app
LaRue-Martin notes that parents, coaches, and staff on sports teams should monitor weather conditions regularly. “Identify who is in charge of making the decision to stop activity based on weather conditions,” she advises. “Have alternate plans in place for deteriorating conditions and activities that must be adjusted or cancelled.”
- Provide re-warming opportunities
Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can decrease blood flow and cause shivering. Provide re-warming opportunities to young athletes to prevent risks associated with cold temperatures. Throughout and after activity, young athletes should have access to external heaters, a warm environment indoors, or additional clothing.
Stay warm, stay safe
Winter doesn’t have to mean hibernation. There are still safe ways for kids to get outside and play or participate in sports. Know the signs of a cold injury and be aware of the closest emergency center in case of injury.