Experts: It’s too cold for kids to be outside

Weather

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ready or not, here come the harshest winter temperatures West Michigan has felt in decades.

Along with that comes another day off school for the kids and another day that they might want to hit the slopes, go sledding or work on the neighborhood’s best snowman.

But experts say you need to keep them inside because it’s going to be so cold.

“I really want to encourage parents and caregivers, don’t let them out. Don’t let those kids outside,” injury prevention specialist Jennifer Hoekstra from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital said Tuesday.

It’s cold enough that frostbite could set in very quickly.

“It can happen in as little as 15 minutes that frostbite can affect their skin,” Hoekstra said.

Fingertips, toes, ears and noses are most at risk. Those areas have fewer blood vessels and can get cold much faster than other parts of the body. Red, rosy cheeks are the first sign that your kids need to go inside right away.

“Your kids start looking dusky, gray, white, kind of waxy skin — that’s when we’ve hit that frostbite,” Hoekstra said.

At that point, it’s time to contact a doctor.

It’s time to call 911 if you notice your child or a loved one becoming clumsy or talking nonsensically.

“We love snow. We love to be outside in the snow. It’s a great way to burn energy. But when it comes accompanied with these super cold temperatures, it can be a very, very dangerous thing,” Hoekstra said.

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Spectrum Health added that the elderly may also be more susceptible to frostbite or hypothermia. They may not have as much sensitivity in their extremities, so they may not notice a problem. They may also lose body heat faster than younger people.

The health care system provided these tips to stay safe:

  • Wear warm coats and well-insulated socks, gloves and hats when you are out.
  • Make sure thermostats are set to between 68 and 70 degrees.
  • Dress in layers. Wear a sweater even while indoors and socks with nonslip grips to keep warm and prevent falling. Wear long underwear or warm pajamas while sleeping.
  • Check in on elderly neighbors, family members or friends who live alone. Make sure their furnace works and they have enough supplies.
  • Limit time outdoors.

If you find yourself out in the cold, warming shelters have been set up in several West Michigan cities.

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