Red Bank, NJ –While your children are outside in the snow, it’s essential to realize the importance of staying warm. Although they may want to continue their snow day frolicking, the dangers presented by the cold, like frostbite, can pose a serious risk to your child’s health.
Frostbite is damage to the skin from freezing due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, usually below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form on the skin or deeper tissue, most commonly in the fingers, toes, ears, nose, chin, and cheeks. The severity depends on several factors, including: temperature, length of exposure, wind-chill factor, dampness, and type of clothing worn. Glenda E. Albizu, M.D., a family medicine physician affiliated with Riverview Medical Center shares her knowledge on the subject: “Children are more prone to frostbite than adults because they lose heat from their skin faster and usually don’t want to come inside when having fun playing outdoors.”
Specific treatment for frostbite varies depending on the severity, and is determined by your child's doctor. If your child is suffering from frostbite, it’s important to remain calm. If feet are affected, carry your child; do not allow him or her to walk. Move your child inside to a warm area and dress them in dry clothes. Take your child to the emergency room immediately, as frostbite can cause serious injury and needs immediate medical attention.
While waiting for medical assistance, warm the exposed skin by immersing the area in warm water (100 to 105 degrees Fahreinheit) until sensation returns. Do not massage the skin, or use direct heat, such as heating pads.
“In order to prevent frostbite, it’s important to dress your child warmly in layers,” says Dr. Albizu. “Covering the ears, fingers, and toes is important as these areas are more likely to be exposed.” Never allow your child to remain in wet clothing, especially socks and gloves. Most importantly, teach your child to be responsible when it comes to the cold and encourage them to come indoors every hour for hot chocolate or their favorite soup. While sledding and making snow angels are vital to any childhood, it’s important to ensure our children stay healthy for the many snow days to come.