What Will Happen if Kids Don't Wear Coats?

By Susan Revermann
Protecting your child's skin is important when the temperatures drop below freezing.
Protecting your child's skin is important when the temperatures drop below freezing.

The frustrating dance between you, your child and his coat is not a new one. Many parents struggle with keeping a protective layer on their child. Although some health concerns come with extreme weather and not wearing a coat, going sans jacket on a mild day isn’t the end of the world and may actually teach him a valuable lesson along the way.

Frostnip and Frostbite

If your child is not wearing a coat outside for extended periods of time when the weather is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, he may experience frostnip or frostbite. These conditions result from the freezing of the skin and tissues below the skin. Frostnip is the early warning sign of frostbite. Your child will notice white, numb skin in the exposed areas. Frostbite looks like white or yellowish-gray skin and may be accompanied by tingling, stinging, throbbing or burning pain. Fingers, toes, ears, noses and cheeks are the areas mostly affected by frostnip and frostbite. Protecting your child’s body with a coat in these extreme conditions can help prevent these conditions.


Hypothermia happens when your child’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit due to prolonged cold temperature exposure. According to child development experts with the Kids Health website, this condition is dangerous, as low body temperatures can cause bodily organs not to work properly, and without treatment, it can be fatal. Keeping the skin dry and warm with a coat in cold environments helps prevent this.

About Illness

Even though the old wives tale warns that not wearing a jacket will give you a cold, that isn’t exactly accurate. As the Kids Health site points out, your child will not get a cold or the flu simply because he went outside without a jacket, slept in a drafty place or went outside with wet hair. Colds and other illnesses are contracted from the bacteria and viruses into which he comes in contact, not the cold weather. Colds are more prevalent during the winter months because he stays inside more and is more exposed to trapped, uncirculated air into which people have coughed, sneezed and breathed.

Natural Consequences

Even with your best intentions to send your child off to school bundled up warm and cozy, he may simply toss the jacket to the side when he’s out of your sight. Sometimes not wearing a coat can provide a valuable life lesson. The natural consequence of being cold or wet can teach your child be more responsible and make better choices. The personal lesson learned from being uncomfortable may just do the trick. It’s more powerful when he makes his own choice to wear the jacket and protect his own body, instead of you trying to make him do so. If the weather is mild and dry, consider giving him a say in how he treats his body to avoid power struggles and discarded jackets. However, if the weather conditions are extreme or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, then you must insist he use a coat.