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Winter Well-being

For many, cold weather can bring comforts like curling up in a blanket, gathering around a fireplace, or bundling up to enjoy some play in the snow.  But along with the sparkling snowflakes and cozy luxuries, come the freezing temps, shorter days, dry air, and the peak of cold and flu season.  Keeping students warm and safe during the colder winter months means educating school communities on winter safety tips, promoting healthy habits, and recognizing health concerns specific to the season.

Healthy Habits

While cold weather in itself does not cause colds or other common illnesses, viruses circulate more in winter months when more time is being spent indoors, in close proximity to others.  Prevent the spread of infection by encouraging effective handwashing, teaching appropriate cough and sneeze etiquette, advocating for flexible absence policies to support students and staff staying home when sick, and emphasizing the importance of getting a flu shot.

Health Concerns

There are some health conditions that, despite the prevention measures listed above, can be triggered by frosty weather.  Asthma exacerbations, eczema flare-ups, dry skin, and recurrent nosebleeds often coincide with temperature drops.  Ensuring students have refills of their asthma relief medications and a current asthma action plan on file is critical this time of year.  For students with a history of worsening asthma attacks in the winter, it can be helpful to advocate for their parent or guardian to discuss an asthma preventative medication with the student’s healthcare provider.  For issues around dryness, be sure to stock up on moisturizers and ointments to provide relief at school, and come prepared for all those epistaxis emergencies.

Safety Tips

Spending time outside, even in the winter, is essential.  But so is dressing appropriately for the elements, establishing limits for time spent in the cold, and recognition of early signs indicating frostbite or hypothermia.  Children should be dressed in light, loose-fitting layers that can be removed if they become sweaty or wet, in addition to a heavy coat, gloves or mittens, and a hat.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “in general, playing outside in temperatures or wind chills below -15℉ should be avoided.”


  • Frostbite most often occurs on the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. It typically starts with a sensation of burning and then quickly turns to numbness.  Occasionally, the skin will turn white or gray and blisters may form.  If frostbite is suspected, avoid placing anything hot directly on the skin and instead gently warm the area by soaking it in warm water or using warm washcloths.
  • Hypothermia is a medical emergency that requires immediate activation of the emergency response system. It can present as intense shivering before causing confusion, sluggishness, and possibly loss of consciousness.  While waiting for EMS, remove any wet clothing and focus on warming core areas of the body including the chest and abdomen.


With the right winter safety education and management, parents, students, and school staff will be able to focus on all the comforts and joys of the season while staying safe, warm, and healthy.

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