My mother used to tell us to put a hat on to go outside to play in the winter because we lose most of our heat through our heads.
It turns out that’s not entirely true.
While a hat can definitely prevent the heat loss that occurs through the head, and therefore keep you warmer, we don’t actually lose MOST of our body heat through our head.
Yes, there are people who actually study these things.
Jolie Bookspan is one such person. Through her work designing rigorous experiments for military survival training, she has found out that we really lose less than 20-30% of our body heat through the head. (Interestingly, the colder it is, the higher the percentage of heat lost through the head, she tells us. At zero degrees Centigrade, we could lose as much as 35% of our body heat through our heads! That percentage also depends on what you’re doing: if you’re exercising outside, it then becomes a smaller percentage.)
Where did the head-heat-loss myth come from?
The Guardian reports a new study that debunks the popular myth. The site tells us, “The myth is thought to have arisen through a flawed interpretation of a vaguely scientific experiment by the US military in the 1950s. In those studies, volunteers were dressed in Arctic survival suits and exposed to bitterly cold conditions. Because it was the only part of their bodies left uncovered, most of their heat was lost through their heads.”
However, in response to the new study mentioned in the Guardian, Kenneth J Collins, a clinical physiologist, brings up a concern. What if people, particularly the elderly, forego hats if they learn that this myth is actually false? The study, he says, ignores the fact that cooling on the head and face actually can have important bodily effects. It seems that cool air on the face can cause systemic cardiovascular reflex responses, and that body temperature can be selectively influenced by cooling of the head and face.
Remember, babies’ heads are bigger, relatively
So, while it may be true we don’t lose MOST of our body heat through the head, 20-30% is still a big number. Imagine what this means for babies, who have even bigger heads relative to their body size, and therefore more surface area from which heat can escape.
So, don’t skip the baby hat when you’re going out on a chilly day!
When I pick up my older son from preschool, I always bring his little brother with me. Sometimes I let the little one check out the toys and books in the play area.
The other day, my toddler was carrying around a book and occasionally putting the corner to his mouth. I was only taking a moment to jot down a note for the teacher, so I knew he wouldn’t get far. But a concerned mom walked over to him, took the book from him, and said, “I don’t think you really want that in your mouth.”
I’m not really sure what she meant – was she genuinely concerned that my son was getting into something that might be dirty? Or was she worried he might pass his germs on to other kids there?
Either way, I hadn’t been that concerned. I just am not that worried about everyday germs. I’d go crazy trying to keep everything from my toddler’s mouth.
My older son knows to cover his mouth with his arm when he has to sneeze or cough. He automatically washes his hands after going to the bathroom. Those are the bare minimums for keeping your germs to yourself, and at four years old, he does pretty well.
I also cancel playdates if he’s sniffly or coughing, even if he is in good spirits with no sign of fever. But beyond this, we don’t go out of our way to do much to keep germs at bay.
I’ve also found it impossible to keep the brothers’ germs separated.
Little brother just wants to test out everything with his mouth, including big brother’s straw, snack leftovers, and even his baseball bat. And with two kids, there’s just no way I could keep everything out of his reach.
Worst of all, this has been big brother’s first year in preschool, so he has caught everything. Strangely enough, the little brother has rarely come down with even a stuffy nose.
We were pretty picky around the house when they were newborns, though.
We were especially protective when they were first born, as they were premature and the doctor warned us about the potential dangers of catching a cold with their immature immune systems. But when they’re that small, it’s so much easier to shield them from everything.
How about you? What lengths do you go to keep germs at bay around your kids?
When I was in elementary school, we lined our mittens up on the radiators in the classroom to dry them after a cold and snowy recess. If any of us developed an earache, our teacher would tell us to grab a hot mitten from the radiator and hold it to the ear.
If you don’t have a hot mitten nearby, I’ve got a nifty trick you can try using one of our earflap hats (also called an aviator hat), to hold a warm cloth in place on a child’s ear.
How does warmth help an ear infection?
An ear infection hurts because of pressure on the ear drum as it bulges to contain fluid that is building up. Heat works to help fluid in the ear break up and be on its way, thus relieving pressure on the ear drum.
But getting a child to lie still on his or her side and hold a cloth perfectly in place themselves for long enough can be a challenge.
A trick for keeping a warm cloth on a wiggly child’s ear
Put the earflap hat on your child without tying the strings. Then take a regular, dry wash cloth and microwave it for 20-25 seconds to warm it. (My husband and I also did this to warm our babies’ blankets after bath time.)
Check that the cloth is not too hot, just comfortably warm to the touch. If it’s too hot, wave it in the air a bit until it’s the right temperature, and then tuck it under the earflap next to the offending ear. Tie the strings under the chin. Let your child lay back and relax.
If your baby is up for it, you can also place them with their painful ear on your chest to provide warmth. But good luck getting your preschooler to do that!
And of course, we’re not doctors here. So make sure you get your child to a doctor if you suspect an ear infection.
While we’re on the topic, I highly recommend a trip to Web MD’s Ear Infection Health Center . You’ll find a vast number of articles dedicated to the topic, including worksheets to help you decide when to give antibiotics.
What about you? How do you get through dreaded ear infections with your little ones?
Moms run the universe, and everyone finds this out when Mom gets sick. At least in our house they do. How about in yours?
What happens in your house when Mommy is sick?
- Not much differently – she takes whatever medicine she can and ploughs through it all in a fog.
- The babysitter and a maid are called in (otherwise known as grandparents and willing friends to some) while Mom gets much needed rest.
- Daddy takes over and most things happen as they need to (well, except for the massive cleanup required upon Mom’s recovery).
I found out that ours is a Type C household recently.
I came down with a stomach virus that knocked me off my feet for about 36 hours. I almost never get sick, THAT kind of sick, so I was pleased, grateful – and also vaguely unaware (at the time) of just what a great job my husband did taking care of the kids.
He did exactly what was needed to keep the kids safe and happy – all I could have asked for.
When Daddy takes over
My husband is not the sort of guy who comes home from work, juggles two whining kids, cooks dinner and ushers in bath and bedtime all by himself normally. (I know they're out there!)
While he has strategies for when he has to care for both at the same time, he’s never done it for more than two or three hours at a time – and usually one is sleeping.
I spent the entire Sunday in bed, delirious and shivering under mounds of blankets. My husband scrounged leftovers from the fridge for lunch, ordered dinner out for a special treat, and made sure he and the kids ate well. He had them bathed and in bed on time. There were few tears throughout the day, and both kids had a bit of mommy cuddling time – but not too much.
I was impressed.
Granted, when I woke up nearly normal the next day, the house was in complete disarray and laundry had piled up. (I’m sure the babysitter and maid would have made an appearance had I been sick for a week.) But all in all, I was just so happy to have been able to get the rest I needed to kick that stomach bug without the stress of worrying about the kids, too.
So, do tell. What happens in your house when Mommy is knocked out?