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Winter Workouts: Practicing in Cold Temperatures

by Betsy Kellerman, ATC/LAT, Manager of the Overland Park Regional Medical Center Sports Medicine and Concussion programs

Sports practice and training doesn’t take a break due to cold weather. If your young athlete decides to practice outdoors, make sure to follow some simple tips to keep them safe in the cold.

  • If your young athlete is going outside in the cold, stay safe — and warm. Make sure she has a snack before going out. The calories will give her growing body energy in the cold weather.
  • Make sure to protect their face with sunscreen. The idea of a sunburn in January can seem odd, but snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun's ultraviolet rays.
  • Kids should dress warmly in layers of clothes. If the top layer gets wet from snow or freezing rain, they can peel off some clothes down to a dry layer.
  • Avoid cotton clothing because it won't keep the him very warm. Stick with wool or other fabrics. Dress him in long underwear, a turtleneck, and a sweater and coat. Add more layers depending on the temperature.
  • Waterproof pants and jackets are great top layers because they don't let the wetness seep into the other clothing. The cold-weather ensemble wouldn't be complete without warm socks and boots to keep feet dry and a hat to top it off.
  • Teach your young athlete the warning signs for frostnip, frostbite's early warning sign. It usually affects areas of skin exposed to the cold, such as the cheeks, nose, ears, fingers, and toes, leaving them red and numb or tingly.
  • Frostnip can be treated at home and gets better with rewarming. Bring your child indoors immediately. Remove all wet clothing. Wet clothes draw heat away from the body. Immerse chilled body parts in warm (not hot) water for 20 to 30 minutes until all sensation returns. Don't let your child control the water temperature during rewarming. Numb hands won't feel the heat and can be severely burned by water that is too hot. Body heat also can be used to rewarm. Don't use heating pads, stoves, fireplaces, or radiators to rewarm because the affected skin can be numb and easily burn. Call your doctor if sensation does not return or there are signs of frostbite and/or hypothermia.

There's no set amount of time kids should be allowed to stay out in the cold. However, when being cold becomes unpleasant, it's time to go inside. Sometimes, though, kids may just need some dry gloves. It helps to have an extra pair of gloves or mittens tucked into their pockets if they plan to be outdoors for a while.

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