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Four ways to survive the cold snap

Toronto, January 13, 2015

By Geoff Koehler

Dr. Janet Smylie
WATCH: Dr. Huber on CTV providing her cold weather tips for kids » http://bit.ly/CoLDkiDS

The holidays have come and gone but Jack Frost shows no sign of letting up his grip on your nose, toes or anything else for that matter. But Dr. Joelene Huber, a developmental pediatrician with St. Michael’s Hospital, has some tips to help your kids (and yourselves) keep warm during the worst of winter.

“Keeping kids warm is important because if they are warm they’re more likely to go outside and play,” said Dr. Huber. “When kids are outside they’re keeping active, staying away from the T.V. and computer screens and increasing exposure to the sun for vitamin D.”

For years, the belief was that the best method for keeping kids warm was a large puffy coat, cotton long johns and wool socks. Dr. Huber said that layers with specific functions and some new-tech fabrics can help keep kids drier and warmer than the puffy coat ever could.

Layers

  • The base layer: an athletic shirt that will wick away sweat and moisture to keep the body dry. Avoid pure cotton as a base layer which can absorb sweat and the wetness may make your child cold.
  • The insulator layer: a fleece sweater acts as an insulating layer, keeping your body heat in.
  • The outer layer: a waterproof winter coat should keep the snow and wind out and help keep your other layers dry while adding additional warmth.
  • The legs: legs get cold too and insulated, waterproof and windproof pants will keep one’s lower body as toasty as the top.
  • The feet: athletic socks designed to wick away sweat and moisture and water-proof boots to keep the feet warm and dry.

Fingers and toes and the tips of the ears and nose are most susceptible to frostbite and are all important to protect with hats, neck warmers and waterproof mittens or gloves.

“Mittens keep the fingers closer together, thus warmer, but gloves allow for more dexterity – which may encourage children to keep them on longer,” said Dr. Huber. “Whether you use gloves or mittens, it’s a good idea to include an extra pair in your child’s pocket in case one set is lost or gets wet.”

Hydration
Hydration is something people think about on summer days but tend to forget about when the weather is coldest. Dr. Huber said that hydration is important because children lose fluids when actively playing and sweating outdoors, even in cold weather. She also noted that dehydration increases the risk of frostbite.

“Remember to pack a water bottle for your child to take to school, even on cold days”, said Dr. Huber.

Eat for heat
On the coldest days, Dr. Huber recommended giving children a full breakfast. An example may be milk, cereal, an egg and toast with a yogurt.

“There’s no set meal,” said Dr. Huber. “Knowing how much your child normally eats, you might think about giving a little more on days when you know it’s going to be very cold. Calories are units of heat and children may burn more calories while being active outdoors in cold weather to help maintain their internal body temperature.”

Safety
Finally, keeping safe outside means wearing safety equipment when doing an activity that will move you faster than you can run – skating, skiing, sledding. Dr. Huber said that for any of these activities, children should be wearing helmets.

Helmets should fit properly and should not be purchased in a larger size to leave room for the child to grow into.

Kids may be averse to wearing helmets so Dr. Huber suggested strategies for improving helmet use.

“First and foremost, parents should model positive behavior by wearing helmets themselves,” said Dr. Huber. “This can help to encourage kids to do the same and keep parents safe.”

Other child-friendly ways to promote helmet use include allowing the child to choose a sticker to put on the helmet each time its worn or using cute/cool helmet covers as a fun way to encourage helmet use.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.