Almost freezing to death  JUN 04 2009

What does it feel like to almost freeze to death? Probably something like this.

At 85 degrees, those freezing to death, in a strange, anguished paroxysm, often rip off their clothes. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical undressing, is common enough that urban hypothermia victims are sometimes initially diagnosed as victims of sexual assault. Though researchers are uncertain of the cause, the most logical explanation is that shortly before loss of consciousness, the constricted blood vessels near the body's surface suddenly dilate and produce a sensation of extreme heat against the skin.

But even if you are caught out in the cold long enough to paradoxically undress, not all hope is lost.

The lowest recorded core temperature in a surviving adult is 60.8 degrees. For a child it's lower: In 1994, a two-year-old girl in Saskatchewan wandered out of her house into a minus-40 night. She was found near her doorstep the next morning, limbs frozen solid, her core temperature 57 degrees. She lived.

Update: The frozen two-year-old was Karlee Kosolofski. In 2001, after the article above was written, a one-year-old clad only in a diaper was found frozen in a backyard.

She was clinically dead, and her heart stopped beating for about two hours. But doctors slowly warmed her body and started her heart again. The girl, nicknamed Miracle, made a complete recovery.

(thx, jason)

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