Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cold, Clothing and Fatality Risk

In just a few weeks, we will set out from sunny (currently 30 degree plus) Melbourne to Boston where there is, right now, sunny but that hasn't stopped single digit temperatures emerging. Of course, it is November and give it another few weeks and Boston will be colder than we have ever experienced. Our strategy up until this point had been to avoid all that but that point is now passed.

What this means, of course, is that neither one of us has ever muttered to our children, "don't go out like that, you'll catch your death of cold." Indeed, we were never told that by our parents either. What we are more likely to do is to cake our children in protective elements during much of the year when the sun exists. In Australia, sun cancer is such a real fear that we have thrown everything at it including what I suspect is a widespread Vitamin D deficiency that future medical researchers will enjoy pouring over. We don't want anyone going out like that and catching their death of sun.

To see the depth of the problem, this year, my now 11 year old daughter decided she liked shorts and relented to wearing anything else for just a couple of weeks of the deepest winter this year. Suffice it to say, this may not cut it in Boston. Now you might have though that one reason for this is that she would catch her death of cold. But according to the almost five minutes of research I conducted assessing the risk of fatality from cold exposure with inappropriate clothing, your risk of the common cold doesn't really increase although there might be an issue with the flu. Thanks to widespread media coverage of a shortage of swine flu vaccines in the US, we all got ourselves the 'family pack' vaccination just last week. So the flu risk seems minimal although my daughter did possibly contract a side-effect, throwing up going home from school and literally taking a tram out of commission. Talk about side effects with collateral damage!

There is, of course, a risk of being cold if you don't have appropriate clothing. Now a key parental role is to teach your children things like 'how to dress?' This is like other parental roles I wasn't aware of until alerted to them. For instance, when our daughter was one year old, we stupidly picked up a parenting manual in a bookstore and learned that she should be able to do 'pat a cake.' We asked her to do this and she couldn't. Later it transpired that it would have helped had we known how to pat cakes.

Which brings me to the issue that I, with my caking patting wisdom am forecasting, that we can't teach our children to dress because we don't know how to dress. I'm the only one of us who has lived outside of Australia and that was four years in Palo Alto. And while during my first winter there in 1990, I suffered greatly because of the sheer cold, I did learn to deal with it after purchasing my first 'coat' which was a garment you put on outside but not in. Who would have thought it? Apparently, all over the world, people are changing their clothes as they change their exposure to walls and roofs. How do they live?

So now I am going to turn to you, who have made it this far reading about my lack of knowledge of basic weather management, to suggest the items that we need to purchase in order to protect our children. Bear in mind that (a) we don't have this stuff; (b) will have to purchase at least one set of them within a day of arriving in Boston and (c) have no real idea of the terminology for things. Now another commenter suggested LL Bean as the font of all that is good in this regard except that they don't seem to exist within an hours drive of Boston (so that might be good for the extra sets that we will surely need). But what list should we take to like Macys, Target or something right on Day 1? Specifically, fill in the blank, "if you don't put on BLANK you will catch your death of cold!" Over to you.