Palmetto Health: Children are at higher risk in extreme cold

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With multiple days now of temperatures being near, at or below freezing in Sumter County and the surrounding area, a children's hospital in the community wants parents to take extra precautions to protect their little ones from harm caused by extended and extreme cold.

Palmetto Health Children's Hospital in Columbia knows damage like frostbite and hypothermia can happen quickly if children are not prepared with the right clothing and safe measures, and just because the snow may be gone does not mean cold temperatures are less dangerous.

"Children may be so excited about playing that they don't want to come inside," said Jason Peck, a pediatric intensivist.

The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures to remain in the 30s for the next couple nights, rounding out almost a week-long streak of below-freezing nights and daytime temperatures in the 30s and 40s.

Here are some tips provided by the hospital to keep kids safe during cold weather.

What to wear

- Several thin layers will keep infants dry and warm.

- Do not forget warm boots, a hat and gloves or mittens. Boots should be large enough to comfortably accommodate two pairs of socks.

- Remove drawstrings from clothing that can get caught on tree branches or play equipment and replace with Velcro.

- Babies and children should wear thin, snug layers when riding in the car instead of thick, bulky coats or snowsuits.

- Keep blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding out of infants' sleeping environment because they are associated with suffocation deaths and may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. One-piece sleepers or wearable blankets are preferred.

- If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping infant warm, use a thin one that can be tucked under the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby's chest.

Hypothermia

What it is: Hypothermia develops when a child's temperature falls below normal because of exposure to cold temperatures. It often happens when a youngster is playing outside without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet.

It can develop faster in kids than in adults.

Symptoms: Shivering, becoming lethargic and clumsy, slurring speech, declining body temperature in severe cases

What to do: If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911. Until help arrives, take the child inside, remove any wet clothing and wrap him or her in blankets or warm clothes.

Frostbite

What it is: Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition typically happens on extremities such as fingers, toes, ears and the nose.

Symptoms: Skin first becomes red and tingly then gray and painful and finally white, cold and hard without pain. Blistering occurs after the skin thaws.

How to prevent it: Dress in layers, covering all body parts when outside in cold weather. Bring children inside if clothing gets wet.

What to do:

- Bring the child indoors if frostbite occurs and place the affected parts of the body in warm (not hot) water. It is recommended to use water that is 104 degrees - about the temperature of most hot tubs.

- Warm washcloths may be applied to the nose, ears and lips.

- Give the child acetaminophen or ibuprofen when you begin rewarming to help painful thawing of skin.

- Do not rub affected areas.

- After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him or her something warm to drink and seek medical attention immediately, especially if blistering occurs.