Winter weather risks

Q: Can you please explain the risks associated with frigid weather so we can get our teenager to dress sensibly this winter?

A: Winter weather presents two big risks for anyone, regardless of age: Frostbite and hypothermia. 

Frostbite is a condition in which skin tissue will get cold enough to freeze. It’s most commonly seen when skin is exposed to brisk winter winds. 

Covering as much skin as possible is the best prevention. Frostbite of fingers and toes can also happen often if there isn’t adequate covering or good-fitting mittens, gloves or footwear. (Warming affected areas with warm water works best if frostbite occurs, though it can be painful.) 

Hypothermia is the second and more serious winter-related condition. This occurs when the core body temperature is lowered below the normal range, generally below 95 degrees. Risk factors include inadequate or wet clothing and staying outside too long on a very cold day. 

Dry, layered clothing is essential if you or your child will be outside for any length of time. A hat is one of the most important single pieces of winter wear for your child to have, due to the amount of body heat that goes out through the head and neck region. Unfortunately, a hat will often be one of the last things a teenager will want to be wearing in public.

Shivering is the body’s way of trying to generate extra heat if it’s starting to get too cold. If your child starts shivering, the most important thing to do is to get him or her into a warmer environment as soon as possible. You can encourage a warm bath or warm shower, one of the fastest ways to warm up. Emergency medical care may be needed in some cases of frostbite and hypothermia.