How much cold can the human body tolerate?


Human body temperature
The normal temperature range of the human body is generally between 36.5 and 37.5 °C. Precautions must be taken outside this range.
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Numerous studies and facts confirm the resistance that the human body has to extreme temperatures, as we see, for example, in mountain climbers who endure intense cold, or in Bedouins who walk in the desert with very high temperatures. Fortunately, the human body has it more adaptation mechanisms which enable it to face adverse climatic conditions, as we shall see below.

The human body automatically activates its mechanisms

When the body is exposed to cold, the organism activates a number of physiological reactions to maintain the internal temperature. The first step is vasoconstriction, in which peripheral blood vessels constrict to reduce heat loss. In addition, the muscles may begin to tremble involuntarily and generate additional heat.

Thermogenesis is the ability to generate heat in the body through metabolic reactions. In mammals and humans, it reaches a static value of around 37 °C.

If exposure to cold persists, the body enters a more advanced phase of the reaction, known as thermogenesis. In this phase, heat is produced through the metabolic activity of brown fat cells, a special type of adipose tissue. On the other hand, in addition to the temperature, it should not be forgotten either strong wind increases the feeling of coldwhich speeds up the process.

These mechanisms and reactions help maintain the body’s internal temperature within a vital range, but… How far can the human body withstand?

Certain normality at an ambient temperature of 0ºC

If we have one at a room temperature of 0 ºC we can lead a normal life, although it’s best to turn on the heat and dress appropriately when going out. In this temperature range, it is possible to suffer from colds or have lower defenses, which is completely normal.

Well protected, we can withstand temperatures down to -10 ºC

And although it may seem the opposite, when the outside temperature is around -10ºC, we can lead a normal lifeof course only in case of sufficient protection. Examples of this are countries like Norway, Russia or Greenland, which experience harsh winters with temperatures of up to 10 degrees below zero or even lower.

Freezing below -20ºC

With these values, the body can begin to have major problems, as your nose and ears can freeze, it is essential to cover your face well. Moreover, with the severe cold, the skin can deteriorate much more easily. And we’re not just talking about physical problems, but other symptoms like extreme fatigue or dizziness can start to appear, so it’s best to avoid these temperatures as much as possible.

Danger to life at temperatures of 27-30 degrees below zero

It is here, from -27ºC that there is a risk of death. It is called “sweet death” because there is no pain and the usual thing is not to realize that it is happening.

The fact is that from 25 degrees below zero, the body goes from very cold to shivering and involuntary convulsions, it is not able to make precise movements, breathing becomes more agitated and confusion occurs. From -30 ºC, experts recommend spending a maximum of 30 minutes outside. Although a body temperature below 36 degrees is already considered insufficient, in medicine a person is considered clinically dead at a temperature below 27 degrees Celsius.


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