Is Eating Snow Safe? What If It's Yellow?

By Matthew Cenzon. May 7th 2016

With snow season close at hand, there comes the age old question of whether or not it is safe to eat snow? After all, it's nothing more than rain in the form of crystalized water, right? However, there are certain dangers regarding the consumption of snow that you should be aware of, especially if you are the parent of small children, who are the most likely of people to eat snow.

Bacteria In Snow

One of the main reasons why people question whether eating snow is safe or not is due to the bacteria that can be found, well, just about anywhere. That snow falling from the sky didn't come out of a filtration system first, so it's probably filled with bacteria, right? According to a report from USA Today, many parents fear their children might be consuming the bacteria, Pseudomonas syringae, with their snow. Although certain complications may arise for those suffering from certain medical conditions, most experts suggest that as long as your child isn't feasting on snow, a tiny clump out of sheer curiosity should not be an issue.

Pollutants In Snow

Another cause for concern in regards to whether or not eating snow is safe is the possible pollutants that can contaminate snow. Many experts agree that snowflakes are very efficient at carrying and absorbing any pollutants that are lingering in the air. From bacteria to acid rain, there is a possibility that the snowflake that is about to land on your tongue has been contaminated by a harmful pollutant. Now that's something to ponder the next time you decide to catch some snowflakes with your mouth.

Dirt, Debris And "Other" Substances In Snow

"Don't eat yellow snow." This is probably the most well-known warning regarding the consumption of snow. But yellow snow isn't the only type of contaminant that people need to worry about when eating snow. Dirt and debris can easily get mixed into the snow you find on the ground. There could possibly be sharp objects like shattered glass or small pointed rocks that can be easily buried in a clump of snow. One bite, and you may find yourself with a cracked tooth, a cut in your mouth, or worst case scenario, you may choke on a hard object that gets stuck in your throat after eating some snow.

Eating Snow For Survival

A common argument used to defend the consumption of snow is for the sake of survival. If you are stranded out in the wilderness, with not a single drop of water to drink, you can suffer from dehydration and possibly perish. So why not just eat a clump of snow to quench your thirst? Again, it's just water in the form of crystallized ice, right? However, therein lies the problem. Many government health advisories warn people not to eat snow because it can lower the body's temperature. If you are stranded out in the cold, the last thing you want to do is internally freeze yourself to death. Although people are warned not to eat snow, they can still drink it if necessary to survive. All they have to do is melt the ice before consuming it.

Bottom Line

While there is little to no evidence that proves eating snow can be harmful to a person's health, you should probably avoid eating it in mass quantities. As far as children eating the snow they find on the ground, there is no full-proof way of preventing them from doing so without keeping them completely away from snow all-together. If this article has created a growing concern for your child's safety and eating the snow outside, you can teach your child about the dangers of eating the snow, no matter how delicious it may appear. Heck, maybe grab some homemade, shaved ice and hide vegetables in it. That way, they will find anything that looks like snow to be absolutely revolting by association.

Fortunately, if your kids do manage to sneak in a bite or two of snow, they will learn it has absolutely no taste at all. Perhaps you can encourage them not to eat snow while satisfying their curiosity by making them a homemade snow cone from clean ice out of your freezer. It may feel odd serving them a snow cone during the coldest time of the year, but it's better for them to be eating something that you know isn't dangerous. Although the sugary syrup with the artificial coloring might not be the healthiest thing for them either.


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