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Baby, It's Cold Outside: Protecting Your Kids From the Chill This Winter

Calgary’s ability to host 50 below wind-chill weather can be very dangerous, especially for young children. Avoiding winter-related health problems such as frostbite, pneumonia and hypothermia play a vital role in Calgary living. 

It all starts with the wardrobe. One of the simplest solutions in avoiding cold and extremely cold weather is to dress appropriately. 

As recommended by Safe Kids Canada, all winter activities your child may take part in require warm and dry clothing and should include:  

  • A thick hat that covers the ears.
  • Loose layers (an absorbent synthetic fabric next to the skin, a warmer/heavier middle layer, and a water resistant outer layer).
  • Socks (a single pair of socks, either wool or wool blend with silk or polypropylene as it is better than cotton which offers no insulation when wet. Avoid extra thick socks as they can cause cold feet by restricting blood flow and air circulation).
  • Boots (dry, water resistant and not too tight).

Preventing winter injury goes beyond just clothing. Children should also drink plenty of warm fluids to help the body maintain its temperature; plain water also goes a long way. When playing outdoors, children should take breaks from the cold to let their body warm up. Sunscreen is also recommended even on cloudy days. 

Children’s jackets should be zipped all the way up; using a neck tube may make this more comfortable. 

It is recommended by Safe Kids Canada that children should not play outdoors if the temperature falls below -25°C (-13°F). 

Some very dangerous illnesses can result from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. In this context, prolonged means that the body is losing heat faster than it can be produced, this leads to hypothermia; an abnormally low body temperature. 

Body temperature that is too low eventually affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly, or move well. This is especially dangerous because the victim may not be able to acknowledge the problem. 

Below are tips for recognizing symptoms of hypothermia, provided by Safe Kids Canada. 


  • Bright red, cold skin
  • Very low energy


  • Shivering and exhaustion
  • Confusion, slurred speech or fumbling hands
  • Memory loss
  • Drowsiness  

If any of the above is apparent, take your child’s temperature; if it reads below 35°C (95°F), the severity of the situation requires emergency care. If medical care is not available, begin warming your child as follows: 

  • Bring your child into a warm room.
  • Remove any wet clothing.
  • Warm the centre of the body first; chest, neck, head and groin. (A heated blanket is ideal. Use skin to skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets otherwise.)
  • Warm beverages can help raise the body temperature. (Do not give alcoholic beverages.)
  • After the body temperature has increased, keep your child dry and wrapped in a warm blanket (including the head and neck).
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Closely tied into hypothermia is frostbite; something that can affect anyone who lives in a climate such as Calgary’s, where skin can literally freeze in minutes. Initially, signs of redness or pain will occur. Here are a few tips for recognizing following frostbite symptoms on your child or infant: 

  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness

As a parent, you may be the first person to notice frostbite on your child as young victims are often unaware due to the numbness.  

If you suspect your child may have frostbite, seek medical assistance. Frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure to cold, so first, you should determine whether your child has hypothermia which is the more serious condition and requires emergency medical attention. 

If only frostbite is present and immediate medical care is not available, following the steps below will make the best use of time. 

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes.
  • Immerse the affected area of skin in warm water. (Not hot; should be comfortable to the touch.)
  • Do not rub or massage the affected area.
  • Do not use heating pad, heat lamp or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator for warming. (Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.)


Matthew was born and raised in Calgary. Safe Kids Canada provides child care tips that can be found at

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