Wilderness Safety with Kids

Most of us who live in Bozeman are drawn to life outdoors, and once we have kids, we’re eager to share the wilderness with them. Kids thrive outside, but there are hazards that represent particular risk for young people and warrant extra caution.

Kids Get Cold
Compared to adults, children have a larger surface area for their weight and are thus more prone to heat loss. Small children who are being carried are at additional risk due to lack of exertion. Be sure to dress your child in layers and have waterproof items available, especially in weather that can turn cold and wet without warning.

Kids are also more likely to overheat in warm conditions, due in part to immature sweat glands. In hot weather, hike early or later in the day to minimize risk. Be sure to provide a hat or other sun protection. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

Kids Get Hungry
Glycogen is an energy store in the liver that allows us to sustain physical activity. Children have smaller stores and will get hungry and tired faster. Be sure to provide nutritious snacks and water regularly to help your child maintain energy and a happy mood.

Kids Get Lost
Young hikers may have lots of physical ability, but lack judgment. Talk to your child about what to do if they get separated from you. Tell them to stop, hug a tree, and stay put. This is a strategy that both calms a frightened child and increases the odds of finding them quickly. Have your child hike with a whistle to blow if they get lost. The whistle is louder and takes less energy than calling out.

Kids Get Burned
Be extremely cautious around campfires. Burns can be very severe and often require specialized treatment not available in Montana.

Susan Daniels is a pediatrician and co-founder of Acorn Pediatrics in Bozeman. To learn more, visit AcornPediatrics.com or follow them on Facebook.