Snow is falling in Germany just in time for the start of the pre-Christmas season.
Children love the white splendor to play with or build a great snowman. And of course they also like to snack on some snow, be it out of curiosity or because snow reminds them of deliciously sweet icing, for example.
That sounds harmless in itself, but it isn’t necessarily. Eating snow can pose some health risks.
Freshly fallen snow: This is why children shouldn’t eat it
One thing is clear: we are not talking about visibly dirty or trampled snow. It goes without saying that you should never put these contaminants in your mouth or even swallow them.
But what about freshly fallen, untouched snow? It should be free of contamination, i.e. basically pure water and therefore actually healthy. But this is not the case.
Unfortunately, there is a fundamental problem with freshly fallen snow – namely that it falls from the sky.
Ecologist Wolfgang Straff from the German Federal Environment Agency explains it as follows: “Rainwater and snow are not food and are not germ-free: contamination via the air path with combustion products, dust or microbial aerosols is conceivable.”
The pollutants that we blow into the air we breathe, for example with our cars or through industrial emissions, are also found in the snow – the higher the pollutant and fine dust levels, the more.
That’s the difference between snow and drinking water
But even if the snow were completely free of pollutants – which it practically never is in our regions – there is still another problem.
Because it not only matters what is in the snow, but also what is not in it. Our drinking water, which is mostly obtained from groundwater, contains minerals and electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium.
Snow, on the other hand, can best be compared to distilled water. And anyone who drinks or eats excessive amounts of it may be putting themselves in danger.
Avoid eating snow
Consuming water without electrolytes increases the osmotic pressure on our cells. This is called reverse osmosis and the dangerous thing about it is that the organism is primarily deprived of vital sodium.
This can cause so-called water poisoning, which can result in serious circulatory problems and, in extreme cases, even be fatal.
So you generally shouldn’t eat snow, no matter how clean and fresh it looks. But of course it can hardly be avoided that children will snack on a handful of them.
In most cases this will be fine, the stomach acid should be able to deal with the germs and the contamination can also be neglected with a small amount.
Water poisoning, on the other hand, would only occur if the equivalent of around two liters were consumed. Still, eating snow is simply not a good idea and you should explain and teach that to your children.