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There’s no such thing as bad weather just unsuitable clothing as we covered in our article on whether you should avoid bad weather with a child. Cold weather, however, isn’t necessarily bad weather as the visibility can be good and the surfaces may not be slippery and wet but it does bring some challenges.
The obvious fact is that cold weather can be miserable and sometimes painful if you’re out in it too long or if the temperature is close to under 0. So if it’s cold outside should we avoid going out in it with small children such as toddlers and babies?
Children are more at risk of the effects of the cold but you shouldn’t rule it out. Read on to find out more.
Are children more vulnerable to cold than adults?
Yes, they are. Their small bodies lose heat quicker than adults and their smaller/juvenile cardiovascular system is also poorer at heating up in the first place. This means that children get colder quickly and heat up slowly. Their smaller frame also reduces the amount of layers they can put on and the layers themselves are less effective because of the aforementioned points.
Therefore, children are much more vulnerable to cold temperatures than adults and as such if you step out and feel fine with what you’re wearing it doesn’t mean they are.
If it’s cold, should I stay in, then?
No, not necessarily – it depends on how cold which we will cover below. Everyone has their internal definition of ‘cold’ and ‘freezing cold’ but with the use of weather forecasts, thermometers and modern devices which can tell you the temperature you can save yourself the hassle of figuring out the answer to this question when it’s too late.
Avoiding going out when it’s a bit chilly can rob you of some fresh air and healthy exercise. Understanding when it’s too cold and be able to spot the signs of this is a helpful tool for all parents.
To make the most of going out:
- Layer up with at least three layers with the last layer being a coat
- Wear a hat that will cover the ears
- Good, thick gloves (don’t get them wet)
- Insulated shoes or wellies/first walker wellies
- Thick socks
- Don’t let them go out on their own
- Keep moving, don’t stay idle for too long
- Stay out for no more than 45 minutes, keep an eye on the forecast to make sure the temperature doesn’t dip further WHILE you’re out
- Don’t wander more than 10-20 minutes from somewhere warm
- Have food/drinks available, a thermos is great
How cold is too cold for children?
If it’s so cold that they begin to shiver, it’s dangerously cold. The shivering is an automatic response to warm themselves up. The best indication to see if it’s too cold for a child to be outside, even if layered up, is to look at the wind chill temperature or the feels like temperature. A cold day with a bone chilling wind will get much colder if there’s no wind at all.
The closer to zero degrees Celsius the more risky it is to go outside but there are other factors to consider such as how many layers they’ll have on and what kind of activity they’re going to do. Generally, 2 and above is manageable with full winter gear and some gloves but for no more than 45 minutes at a time. 2 degrees can still slowly eek away at their gloves and they’ll soon start to complain. This won’t hurt them but it just won’t be enjoyable.
For those who just want a UK parenting website to get off the fence and say what temperature is too cold for a child then we’d say anything below 2 degrees. And that’s when they are fully layered up.
If it’s too cold they are at risk of hypothermia and frostbite, which will present itself with greying skin, disorientation, clumsiness and slurred speech.