We all know that we need some basic winter gear to keep us warm and dry while enjoying the outdoors in cold temperatures. Recently, our blog featured a basic winter gear guide that you can check out. Today, I want to focus on the underlying reasons, besides comfort, that we outfit our family properly while playing in the snow and on the ice.
Our first concern is frostbite. Frostbite occurs when the cells in the skin freeze from long exposure to extreme cold. Similar to how burns are assessed, severity of frostbite is measured in four degrees depending on how deep the freezing goes into the tissue. First degree frostbite is called “frost nip” and many of us have probably experienced it at some point. The most affected parts of the body are small exposed parts such as fingers, toes, and nose. Despite nostalgic Christmas songs, you don’t really want Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
The first symptoms are numbness, then hardening of the skin which turns pale. A mild frostbite can be treated simply with gradual warming. But anything beyond first degree frostbite will require medical care to prevent complications from arising. A severe frostbite will likely be accompanied by hypothermia.
As Trail Parents, we have to be on the lookout for symptoms of frostbite especially in younger children who often ignore bodily discomfort when they are engaged in play. We do our best to outfit them properly and then keep a watchful eye.
The Mayo Clinic has an excellent page on frostbite that I suggest any Trail Family familiarize themselves with. Know the signs, symptoms, and care for frostbite.
How cold is too cold? As I mentioned above, hypothermia is another condition that may require medical attention. Many cases of hypothermia (when body temp reaches 95 F or lower) are accidental due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures without proper gear to keep you warm and dry. The body is losing heat faster than it can make it resulting in a net loss of heat and a drop in body temperature.
Again, we need to be especially conscious of little ones because they won’t complain if they are having fun and can easily be over exposed. Shivering and a decrease in coordination are the first signs of hypothermia. Be diligent in watching all family members for these symptoms when you are outside for an extended period of time. Here is a great link for more information on hypothermia treatment and prevention.
Prevention is the best medicine for either of these conditions. Staying dry, wearing layers, and being well hydrated are the best preventatives for hypothermia. Cover your extremities and limit exposure to extreme cold to prevent frostbite.
Don’t forget about your four-legged family members. Recently a friend of mine on Facebook shared this temperature safety guide for pets. I thought this was great information to have so I’ll also share that here.
We hope that this article was helpful for you and your TRAIL FAMILY. Enjoy this wonderful winter, but do so safely!
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