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JustGo
08-29-2008, 06:36 PM
All right, I've done a decent amount of research into hypothermia in the past, but it's hard to figure out exactly what results will be in a specific situation. That, and I'm really bad at researching in general. As a result, I don't know how this would work out.

A character in my novel ends up spending an entire night on the ground. It's the night of the first snow, so temperatures are ranging between 25 and 31 degrees fahrenheit. She has no shelter, so the snow is falling on her the entire time. The character is a sixteen-year-old girl wearing a short-sleeved shirt who is underweight, recovering from physical injuries and suffering from severe psychological trauma.

How long could she be expected to last? Ideally, for story purposes, I'd like her to make it through to the morning, but I'd rather bend the story to suit reality than bend reality to suit the story. Also, what state would she be in, and what aid would she need to survive afterwards? All she's going to have is the aid of fellow prisoners of war, so no fire, no blankets, and not much to spare.

Any and all help appreciated!

Ms Hollands
08-29-2008, 07:05 PM
With just a short-sleeved shirt? I doubt she'd make it past the first hour!

I don't know the answer, but I think wind chill factor would play a fairly important part. If it's calm, the air will have less of a chill in it and she would be able to survive longer, but probably not much if she's already underweight and wearing so little.

JustGo
08-29-2008, 07:22 PM
Probably should have mentioned that part - there is very little wind. So that is one small piece of good luck for her, hehe.

hammerklavier
08-29-2008, 07:27 PM
I'm no doctor, but I doubt she'd live five hours in those conditions. Not dressed, underweight, lying on the ground. Maybe if she pushed a pile of leaves together and burrowed under she might make it all night.

Sarpedon
08-29-2008, 08:01 PM
If she's conscious, she'd better get up and go somewhere else. If she's not conscious, she's dead.

My sister had an acquantance here in Minneapolis who one evening slipped on ice, knocked himself out, and froze to death. This was in spite of him being male, relatively large and well fed, and dressed for a Minnesota winter.

JustGo
08-29-2008, 08:57 PM
Hmm, glad I asked, since there seems to be a consensus that she wouldn't survive. I'll keep watching this thread, but I'll work on figuring out how to write the new scene - say, getting her out within an hour or so of the fall of night - in the meantime.

To answer Sarpedon, she's conscious, but she's been reduced to a catatonic state and isn't doing anything to help herself. So, effectively... yeah, she's unconscious (I should probably set up another thread about psychological disorders caused by stress other than PTSD...). Do you know how long your sister's friend was out before he died?

Kitty Pryde
08-29-2008, 09:01 PM
Scrawny girl in a tshirt-sitting or lying down, definitely not more than an hour! Walking around maybe 2 or 3 hours? I ski all the time (and I'm far from scrawny!) I've been out in a tshirt, long john bottoms and ski pants, and after about ten minutes in such conditions I am shivering uncontrollably (shivering to the point that I can't ski) and HAVE to go put on a jacket. Go up to a ski area this winter and wander around dressed like your character to share in the misery!

Every so often a snowboarder girl (or guy) at a ski resort (wearing full gear-coats and snow pants) will get lost and spend the night out. In most stories I have heard, the person does not make it. On rare occasion they do survive the night.

And keep in mind that, besides hypothermia, after about an hour, frostbite will definitely set in--bad times the next morning when your dead fingers and toes thaw out!

JustGo
08-29-2008, 09:09 PM
Thanks, Kitty!
Sounds like I'll want to get her out of there fast. As much as I like tormenting her (I'll make a list in my upcoming psych trauma thread!), I've got no desire for her to lose any more body parts than she already has.

And I do know cold - I live in Vermont - but I've never been insane enough to spend ten minutes outside in a T-shirt in mid-winter weather, hehehe.

Mike Martyn
08-29-2008, 09:18 PM
If she huddles under a fir tree, she might make it especially if she pulls off some of the bows for insulation. Thirty one degrees is not that cold. The secret is to stay dry which is why you shelter under the bows of a fir tree. At least that's what we teach kids to do if they're lost in the woods.

Otherwise she's dead in an hour tops and the last 45 minutes, she'll be unconscious.

Mike Martyn
08-29-2008, 09:30 PM
Scrawny girl in a tshirt-sitting or lying down, definitely not more than an hour! Walking around maybe 2 or 3 hours? I ski all the time (and I'm far from scrawny!) I've been out in a tshirt, long john bottoms and ski pants, and after about ten minutes in such conditions I am shivering uncontrollably (shivering to the point that I can't ski) and HAVE to go put on a jacket. Go up to a ski area this winter and wander around dressed like your character to share in the misery!

Every so often a snowboarder girl (or guy) at a ski resort (wearing full gear-coats and snow pants) will get lost and spend the night out. In most stories I have heard, the person does not make it. On rare occasion they do survive the night.

And keep in mind that, besides hypothermia, after about an hour, frostbite will definitely set in--bad times the next morning when your dead fingers and toes thaw out!

*************************

Yeah, if the frost bite is severe enough, all your toe nails fall off. I speak from unpleasant experience.

I grew up in Manitoba. At age 13, I almost die of hypothermia when I was snow shoeing. Believe me, I was dressed for the -30 degree weather in a wool parka that must have weighed a good 15 pounds. The problem was that I had been running (which you actually can do on snow shoes). Perspiration wet my cotton long johns and once they were wet, the cold just leached away my body heat.