The Cold Truth

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The common cold or the season flu may not scare you, but the crazy effects of hypothermia might be something you want to look into. Hypothermia is when your body reaches a temperature of less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in the core of the being, or lower.

The first few symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, stumbling, slowing down, poor coordination, a dazed feeling, confusion, and slurred speech. These symptoms are a little nerve-wracking because they tend to exist in the cold for some people even without the deadly illness. When hypothermia becomes life threatening, it is because the heart rate slows down dangerous levels. 

What's interesting about the final stages of hypothermia is that humans take on an animistic approach to the last few stages. Animals tend to dig holes in the Earth for warmth, and humans do something similar, such as burrowing under blankets or hiding in a shelf for desperate need of warmth. This primitive behavior is triggered by the final stage of hypothermia, and occurs because of the autonomous process of the brain stem. 

The next most bizarre thing about this phenomenon is called "paradoxial undressing". This is when the victim attempts to accelerate heat loss by taking off clothing. When I first read about this, I was confused and thought the process was so unbearable that the victim would try to make death happen faster, but it's quite the opposite. When muscles begin to start failing the body, all the warmth from the core of the body crushes to its extremities. It results into a hot flash, which makes the person experiencing this think that they are heating up, therefore removing clothing to cool down. 

Hypothermia occurs mainly with people who abuse drugs or alcohol, but the best way to avoid this is to wear protective clothing.

With a season so cold in State College, it is best to educate one's self about these type of illnesses, because they can turn out to be common if safety precautions aren't handled properly. Even just an innocent run outside can turn deadly if the body becomes too sweaty in the freezing cold.

The chart below illustrates exactly how long a victim of hypothermia has until their status becomes fatal.



1 Comment

Just the other day I was dressed for normal fall weather, and went about my day, slowly beginning to realize that as the sun went down and the wind picked up, my bones began to feel sore and when the wind touched my skin I felt it go through me. It was an experience in itself, but got me thinking about extreme cold. My breath was short and I couldn't think straight as I ran to my apartment. I know I wasn't experiencing hypothermia yet it got me thinking about it. The charts were great, and this was overall a great read.

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