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Healthy You

Cold Air Can be Beneficial to Your Health, Especially for Children

Thursday, December 16, 2021 10:22 AM

Icelandic parents love to let their bundled babies nap outside in cold temperatures. Upon hearing this, your first response might be a salty, “Well, good for them.” Indeed, it might be great for them.

Studies show that kids who get outside more are less likely to develop diseases as adults and may have more flexible joints, healthier hearts and stronger lungs than kids who spend more time indoors.

With Winter at our doorstep, perhaps it’s time for us to think like Vikings and train our minds to consider cold air as refreshing and beneficial, especially for our children.

Cold Air Benefits

Before your kids head outside to play, Stephen Wielgus, MD, of the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Insitute, shares safety tips to keep your family warm and safe while playing outside.

  1. Dress your kids in layers. Multiple light layers can help keep their bodies insulated while allowing heat to circulate throughout their bodies without overheating. Their first layer should be moisture-wicking and the outer layer should be waterproof.
  2. Cover their hands, head, heart, feet and ears. Avoid frostbite by covering those vulnerable areas on their bodies. Mittens are warmer than gloves, and find ones that have a waterproof outer liner.
  3. Look at their shoes and socks. Waterproof insulated boots keep feet dry. If they have shoes on, make sure the shoe has more traction than found in a typical gym shoe. Ditch cotton socks that can stay damp and cold. Get wool ones instead that can wick away moisture.
  4. Grab a scarf. If you have asthma the cold air could agitate your lungs. Wrap the scarf over your nose and mouth to prevent the icy sting in the air.
  5. Bring a thermos. Having something warm to drink can keep kids hydrated and warm up their bodies.
  6. Wear bright colors. Winters are known for dark mornings and dark afternoons. Wear bright clothing and reflective gear to ensure others see your family.
  7. Pick a safe route if you’re heading out for a walk. Areas of sidewalks that aren’t shoveled can cause barriers to your route. Look for other walking routes at the Chicago Botanic Garden for a safe and scenic route.
  8. Warm-up. Have the kids do a few jumping jacks or high knees to warm up their bodies before heading outside.
  9. Recover afterward. This will help protect muscles from cramping, soreness, and dehydration.