Officials give tips for outdoor safety
OSCEOLA COUNTY — Children across Osceola County have the next week off of school for their holiday break and a few may hope to celebrate their freedom from classes by playing outdoors. With temperatures dropping below zero, officials have a few tips to help the kids stay warm and keep an eye out for frostbite.
"Frostbite can happen fast with the cold wind chills. Make sure skin surfaces are covered," said Adam Kelly, M.D., emergency department physician at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital, adding how children are dressed is and important factor.
Children heading out to romp in the snow should wear several thin layers to stay warm and dry, according to Spectrum Health's Health Beat website, healthbeat.spectrumhealth.org. Adequate outdoor clothing includes thermal long johns, turtlenecks, at least one shirt, pants, sweater, coat, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens and a hat.
Newborns being brought out in the cold should wear a hat, layers of clothing and booties or slippers to keep them warm from head to toe. One tip the website gives is to put baby's jacket on backwards, making it easier to remove the jacket to strap the toddler into their car seat. Don't buckle over the baby's jacket. The jacket can then be placed back over the youngster to them warm enroute to the destination. Between the trips from the house and the vehicle, the website suggests using a car seat cover.
According to the website, a spare change of clothes should be on hand to replace cold and wet garments, and families should watch for cold temperature-related injuries, which fall into three categories: hypothermia, when a person develops a low core body temperature; frostbite, freezing injuries of the extremities; and nonfreezing injuries, which can occur due to prolonged exposure to wet and cold socks, shoes or boots.
"Kids seem to ignore some of the early signs of injury," Kelly said. "Parents should remind them to take breaks."
Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure, the Health Beat website says. It often happens when children are outdoors in extremely cold weather without proper clothing or when their clothes get wet. If children shiver and become lethargic and clumsy, hypothermia may be setting in. Speech also may become slurred.
Families should call 911 immediately if they suspect child is hypothermic. Until help arrives, take children indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap them in blankets or warm clothes.
"If a child's behavior isn't right, bring them in," Kelly said.
According to the Health Beat website, frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. Watch for extremities that may become pale, gray and blistered. Children may complain that their skin burns or has become numb.
If a child shows signs of frostbite, they should be brought indoors.
"Place a warm, wet — not hot — washcloth on their face and put their hands under warm water," Kelly said. "Do not rub the frostbitten area. If the tissue is already damaged, rubbing it can cause further damage."
If numbness, discoloration or pain due to cold continues for more than a few minutes, call a doctor.