Do Kids Feel the Cold Like We Do?

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My kids insist on wearing short-sleeve shirts and no coats in the middle of winter! Are they really as unaffected by the cold as they claim to be?
- Francesca

Don't let your kids fool you — they feel the cold just like we do! In fact, young children are more prone to heat loss and hypothermia when they're not properly bundled up.

So why do they insist on going coatless? Many reasons: Younger kids tend to dislike bulky, restrictive clothing or anything that is itchy or uncomfortable. Also, if they're used to picking out their own clothes (and asserting some of that growing independence), they may balk when a parent suggests an alternative. And older kids might think that wearing coats, hats, or gloves is just "uncool."

But whatever the reason, it's up to you to set guidelines. As a general rule, dress your kids as you would dress yourself. Wearing layers is the way to go. But rather than bulky, heavy materials, choose fabrics that are lighter and easier to move in. Soft, light cold-weather fabrics such as merino wool, polyester fleece, and other synthetic materials trap heat and absorb moisture. Allow kids to peel off layers when they get sweaty or overheated or add layers when they get cold.

To prevent hypothermia or frostbite when outside in the cold, kids need to wear a jacket or coat and cover exposed areas, like hands, ears, and heads. When indoors, socks and slippers may be needed on cold days and nights, depending on where you set your thermostat.

No doubt about it, kids are vulnerable to cold temperatures. So when it comes to cold-weather wear, trust your instincts. Helping kids brave the elements ensures that they'll stay toasty all winter long.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013

Related Resources

Web SiteFEMA Winter Storms and Extreme Cold Information on dealing with severe winter weather, including driving tips and fact sheets.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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