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Study finds 100% of children playing in cold complain of cold-related health problems

Outdoor activity for children has positive health benefits even in winter months. However proper cold weather protective apparel and oversight by adults is critical to realize health benefits and to prevent adverse effects from cold exposure.

A study in Finland of children ages 7-8 playing and recreating outdoors in cold weather while being supervised by adults was conducted. The children were engaged in walking running, cycling, skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, riding, and playing in the snow. Outdoor temperatures varied from minus 33.7 C (-28.7) to plus 3.4 C ( 38.1 F).  Half of the children’s outdoor activities took place in temperatures of −15 C (5 F) or colder.

The study found that 100% of the children complained of some cold-related health problem such as facial skin pain, finger and toe pain, and facial numbness which could have resulted in frostbite despite adult supervision. Fifty percent (50%) of the children experienced respiratory symptoms indicating lack of airway protection from cold exposure.

The key findings are that children recreating in the cold will experience cold induced health problems that could become serious, including a high percentage of respiratory symptoms, despite adult supervision. Children playing in the cold require active surveillance by parents and caregivers who are educated about cold weather health problems and appropriate protective clothing, including facial and airway protection.

Hanna Rasi, Heli Kuivila, Tarja Pölkki, Risto Bloigu, Hannu Rintamäki & Marjo Tourula (2017) A descriptive quantitative study of 7- and 8-year-old children’s outdoor recreation, cold exposure and symptoms in winter in Northern Finland, International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 76:1, 

Link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/22423982.2017.1298883