Thoughtful Parenting: Take the stress out of winter travel by being prepared
January 19, 2014
Parents of young children are some of the best-prepared people for travel. Not counting the old crumbs in the seat of the car, parents are the experts in packing snacks, along with water, milk and spare clothing.
People who live in the mountains develop skills for driving in snowy conditions. However, even with an all-wheel drive car and good tires, it's possible to get stuck in deep snow. Being stranded brings the risk of prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Hypothermia occurs as your body loses heat faster than it can be produced, and eventually, the body's stored energy is used up.
Children lose heat more quickly than adults, mostly through their head, making them more prone to hypothermia. Dressing in layers and wearing a hat helps preserve body heat. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing that are slightly loose fitting hold more body heat than cotton. Adding an outer layer of clothing made of tightly woven, wind-resistant material also helps reduce body-heat loss.
Winter is the time of year to take inventory of supplies in the family car. Being prepared takes a lot of the stress out of traveling with children.
Winter survival kits should include at least:
■ Fluorescent distress flag and emergency flares
■ Shovel, windshield scraper and small broom
■ Flashlight with extra batteries and battery-powered radio
■ Local maps
■ Tow chain or rope
■ Road salt and sand or kitty litter
■ Booster cables
■ Water and snack food
■ Matches and candles
■ Extra hats, socks, mittens, snow boots and extra blankets
■ First-aid kit with pocket knife
■ Necessary medications
What to do if you get stranded
Staying in your vehicle when stranded often is the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are covered with ice. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:
■ Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car if it's not snowing.
■ Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area. Move any extra floor mats under your feet for extra insulation.
■ Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets or newspapers.
■ Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
■ Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window, one that is downwind from a snowstorm, slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe — this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
■ As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
■ Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.
■ Huddle with other people for warmth.
For more information, visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp.
This article was provided by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, which has been a member of the Routt County Early Childhood since its inception in 1998. Information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado Emergency Preparedness guidelines.
This article was written in collaboration with Jim Johnsen, of Northwest Colorado EPR regional staff.