Monday, January 27, 2014

How to avoid cold weather injuries when hiking with children

Avoid cold weather injuries on winter hikes by
practicing prevention.
While winter hiking with children holds a variety of advantages over summer – no bugs, ability to see through foliage, lack of crowds – they also offer up a variety of dangers, from frostbite to snow blindness.

Fortunately, each of these conditions can be avoided so that children don’t suffer winter’s potentially ill effects. It begins with awareness of the time of cold weather injuries that can occur.

Among them are:
g Frostbite In extremely cold conditions, the fluid inside the body’s cells can freeze. As freeing, it expands, rupturing and killing cells. You shouldn’t hike in weather cold enough to give kids frostbite; that threshold is reached when the temperature and wind chill are so low that no amount of bundling up will keep a child warm.
g Hypothermia This dangerous condition happens when heat loss from the body occurs faster than the body can keep up, usually when a person is in wet, cold air or clothes. To avoid, ensure children wear adequate clothing and then layered clothing, including a hat, which can decrease heat loss from body.
g Slips and falls Icy conditions increase the chances of slips and falls, and snow often conceals hidden dangerous such as sharp plant stems or hard rocks. Keep your pace slower on icy and snow-covered trails and wear boots with traction to avoid falling. Here's how to walk across snow and ice.
g Snow blindness – As the white snow reflects light back, the eye can be oversaturated, leading to a temporary inability to see. To protect the eyes, always wear sunglasses on a winter hike.
g Trench foot – When snow gets into a boot, the foot can become wet and cold, leading to blood vessels constricting in that extremity, resulting in numbness and swelling. Have pants cover rather than be tucked into boots so that moisture doesn’t get to the foot.
g Wind burn Winter’s dry wind, unhindered by summer’s lush foliage, can dry the oily layer of a child’s skin, resulting in a burn. To prevent burn, rub moisturizer or petroleum jelly on exposed skin before the hike.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.