MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: What exactly happens to cause death in someone who freezes to death?

Area: Medicine
Posted By: kathi clement, faculty md, family practice, Univ. of Wyoming
Date: Mon Nov 10 10:07:45 1997
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 878625633.Me
When humans are exposed to the cold, our bodies initially try to 
adapt and protect the most important organs which include the brain, heart, 
liver and kidneys.  The arms and legs although blood continues to circulate 
through the large blood vessels, the smaller ones will constrict again to 
conserve body heat and the internal organs.  With time the body temperature 
decreases, there are changes in the blood pH and the human will also start 
to "shutdown".  People with hypothermia will become more confused and 
disoriented and then unconscious.  With time all organs will shutdown, and 
if no revival efforts- death occurs.  Sometimes when people who have been 
out and appear "frozen", there may be attempts to rewarm the person and 
occasionally this does revive the person.

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