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How to Dress to Fend Off the Cold

How to Dress to Fend Off the ColdLWA / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

With the extreme cold weather we sometimes get in Montreal, it’s important to prepare in advance! Just like extreme heat, the extreme cold and wind chill can have dangerous consequences, especially for children. Frostbite, hypothermia and their related complications are never far away when it’s extremely cold.

When the thermometer reading in Montreal reach between -20 and -30°C, the arctic winds blowing our way can make it feel more like -40°C.

Whether you’re a lifelong Canadian, a foreign student, a new arrival or just visiting, it’s worthwhile getting a reminder of how to dress to fend off the cold, and how to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite. Especially if you're taking care of young children, it's important to know how to dress them, and to recognize the signs of extreme cold affecting their bodies so that you can bring them into the warm indoors as soon as possible.

The first and most important “trick” to braving extreme cold is to dress in layers. That way, you can remove layers if you get too warm. Getting too warm is a dangerous trap, because if you start sweating, the humidity stays trapped in your clothes, making you even colder later in the day.

Layers should include a breathable inner layer to wick moisture away from your skin, and a wind-resistant outer layer. You should also be wearing gloves, a hat and a scarf to protect your extremities.

Warning signs for FROSTBITE:

Watch for tingling skin, numb sensation, no sensation in the extremities and white patches on exposed skin. If any of these are present, you should seek warmth and start thawing the affected area.

For white patches on your skin, have a friend inspect your face. It’s often difficult or impossible to realize your skin is freezing. The quickest way to thaw frostbite is to remove a glove and apply your hand’s warmth directly to the white patch.

Warning signs for HYPOTHERMIA:

Watch for shivering, blue lips, blue fingertips or toes, and quick breathing. If any of these are present, seek warmth immediately.

Children are especially prone to hypothermia, since they will often not react to the first symptoms and continue with their activities. Adults should watch children closely while playing outside, skating, skiing, etc. If any signs of hypothermia are present, seek warmth. 

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