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Bundle up, winter is on its way

Cold season has arrived, the leaves are turning golden and winter is around the corner. Children are less able to regulate their body temperature than adults, so they can quickly develop a dangerously low body temperature (hypothermic). Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water.

Newborn infants are prone to hypothermia because of their large body surface area, small amount of subcutaneous fat and decreased ability to shiver. Children and adults respond to cold extremes by shivering, developing goose bumps and experiencing lethargy and a slow heart rate. Eventually the shivering ends and disorientation and lack of responsiveness occur. Severe hypothermia can also result in arrhythmia, an abnormal beating of the heart.

If you suspect a child has developed hypothermia, get him or her into room or shelter, remove wet clothing and warm the body. Warm beverages can also help increase the body temperature. After the temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck, and get medical attention as soon as possible.

If  the body temperature is  below 95° or the person becomes disoriented, the situation is an emergency and you need to get medical attention immediately.

There are couple of things you can do to prepare children to brave the outside temperature. Some tips include wearing  proper cold-weather gear, avoiding severe cold and carefully selecting timed periods of cold exposure. Children who are waiting for the school bus should wait inside until they bus come to pick them up. Also, a good breakfast with warm beverages will help children have more energy to prepare for the cold. And if you follow these tips… let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

About Dr. Santi Budiasih

Santi Budiasih attended the University of Indonesia and completed her residency training at the University of Nebraska/Creighton University, Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebr. Her medical interests include well baby / well child care, adolescent health and sports medicine.

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