View Full Version : Frostbite Questions

11-17-2010, 03:19 AM
Not sure whether this counts as frostbite or not, but here goes:

In my fantasy WIP, I've got a scenario where a seven-year-old boy is being held captive in the magical equivalent of a walk-in refrigerator. The room is cold enough to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. The boy has been drugged unconscious and is laying on the marble floor. He's wearing a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, socks and shoes. He'll be in the same position for four to six hours.

Questions: The biggest question is would he suffer any injuries from the cold? What would be the appropriate treatment?

Thanks in advance!

11-17-2010, 03:34 AM
If it's a fridge, then you're talking 38-41 degrees, Fahrenheit (about 3-5 degrees Celsius) according to my fridge. That's not freezing, so it shouldn't cause real frostbite. It could put him into hypothermia by dropping his core temperature, depending on how long he's in there. If it's a sealed unit, then you also need to worry about hypoxia.

11-17-2010, 03:41 AM
Thanks, Cyia! Sounds like I need to look up hypothermia. I hadn't considered lack of air, but that shouldn't be an issue. The room's door doesn't seal that tightly.

11-17-2010, 04:10 AM
I would guess mild hypothermia. I did some EMS disaster drills when I was a teen and ended up in similar conditions - lying on concrete for about 3 hours in ~50 degree weather but I was in the shade, wearing shorts and a t-shirt - and was freakin' freezing by the time they got around to "rescuing" me. Younger child, slightly colder, would probably react worse but as long as his clothing is warm as well as covering him (and the drugs aren't doing anything weird) he should be relatively okay once he gets warmed back up.

Drachen Jager
11-17-2010, 05:00 AM
Second for hypothermia. Frostbite only gets you at sub zero temperatures (celsius).

Unless he's warmly dressed six hours would kill a young boy. It would probably do a number on a healthy adult.

11-17-2010, 05:06 AM
Second for hypothermia. Frostbite only gets you at sub zero temperatures (celsius).

Unless he's warmly dressed six hours would kill a young boy. It would probably do a number on a healthy adult.

Six hours at refrigerator temperatures could be fatal?

Hmm... I need to consider the timing. The scenario is flexible as to where the boy is being held so I can change it to a simple storeroom rather than a refrigerated room, but at the moment I like the idea of the cold room. The ones who put him there are trying to incapaciate but not kill him, which is why I was thinking they also drugged him. It's important to their plot that he doesn't wake up for a while.

11-17-2010, 05:35 AM
If it's only for produce, then the temperature could be a bit warmer than for a regular refrigeration unit. I have a water cooler (like Ozarka with the 5 gallon jugs) that's got a "cool spot" underneath for fruit and produce. It's cooled by the same system that cools the water, only indirectly. I'd doubt if the temperature ever drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cooler temps are really only needed for meat or dairy, so if you call it a veggie or fruit unit, you could get away with a safer, yet still cold, temperature that would give your kid a lighter impact.

Drachen Jager
11-17-2010, 09:08 AM

Read the bit about being in water. 10 degrees C will kill in one hour. He's not in water, but figure being on a cold floor is probably about 1/4 of his body directly in contact so it would be like being 1/4 immersed in water (if he was standing or on something it wouldn't be so bad, but being on a cold floor sucks the heat out of you).

11-17-2010, 11:13 AM
Thanks for the link, Drachen Jager!

All right, I can change the scenario so that he's not touching the ground. The scene has been arranged so that it looks like he tried to stand on a barrel to reach something off an upper shelf, but the barrel's lid slipped, he fell inside and knocked himself out, and the barrel tipped over. Originally I had him half in, half out of the barrel, but if he's all the way inside that will give him some protection.

Drachen Jager
11-17-2010, 09:13 PM
Yeah, imo inside a wooden barrel he'd be fine. The wood would (wood would, that's terrible) insulate him and the barrel would help keep a bit of a pocket of warm air around him. He'd still probably be hypothermic but not so badly.

11-17-2010, 09:53 PM
I'd mention that the barrel protected him from the cold of the room, helping to retain his body heat.

11-17-2010, 10:11 PM
The barrel is going to perform the function of a snow cave for stranded skiers or hikers, or a wet suit for divers. The air in the barrel will warm somewhat from his body temperature, and lacking air circulation, it will be way warmer than the surroundings.

And I second the higher temperature for storing produce, as opposed to meats and dairy. Consider root cellars, where certain kinds of produce kept for months. They reach the 60s.

11-17-2010, 10:47 PM
Sounds good. I was making it a cold room partially to demonstrate the possibilities of magic in this world (magical tokens embedded in the walls are keeping the temperature down), but I also need to consider the needs of the plot (both mine and the story conspirators who put the boy there in the first place). The boy is a pawn in a kidnapping plot, and it's vital to the conspirators' plot that he's not discovered too soon.

So that begs the question of what is stored in the room. This world has a pre-industrial level of technology, with the addition of magic to give them things like refrigeration. I'm flexible on the possibilities, but there needs to be something in the room that a little boy might consider a treat.

Question: should apples in barrels be refrigerated? I've been thinking he's in an apple barrel, but I haven't confirmed yet how apples should be treated.


11-17-2010, 11:39 PM
You might consider a spring house. That's partially underground (or can be) and would have a spring/creek running through it. The magic could be used to maintain the natural coolness of the spring house during the worst of the summer months as well as in keeping bugs and rodents out. (The door and creek area would provide access to them.) Apples, fruits, some cheeses would be stored there. It would also be away from the house due to the need to be over a spring which people wouldn't want built into their residences.

Look up spring houses/root cellars. I know the PBS show A Taste of History featured one in the first season which you could get through the City Tavern website. (It also gives some real world history as well as teaches open hearth cooking receipes.

11-17-2010, 11:41 PM
Actually my problem is with the barrel. Barrels hold things. In a root cellar they will either hold salted or brined things. In a salted situation, the barrel falls over, some food gets lost but the kid stands up and announces, "I'm ok!"

In the brined situation, the kid gets wet and then thermal mass says that the kid gets too cold...