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PastMidnight
04-04-2008, 09:42 PM
I have a character who has been traveling on foot through central Germany for some days. It's early December. He's exhausted, hungry, dehydrated. It starts to rain and he pulls a blanket over his head and crawls under some branches to take shelter. He falls asleep. Does he suffer anything from the exposure to the cold? Any hypothermia or frostbite or anything else?

It doesn't matter to my story if he does, but I'm trying to think realistically. I want him to be asleep or otherwise out of it until a pair of kids begin poking him with sticks. At that point, I don't really care if he leaps up, refreshed from his nap, or passes out again. What physical effects would be realistic given my scenario?

Thank you in advance!!

StephanieFox
04-04-2008, 10:20 PM
Any hypothermia or frostbite or anything else?



Hmmm. Well, since it's raining and not snowing, he's not going to get frostbite, buy hypothermia is a real concern. Hypothermia can cause confusion; the body just kinda shuts down.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-04-2008, 10:54 PM
I have a character who has been traveling on foot through central Germany for some days. It's early December. He's exhausted, hungry, dehydrated. It starts to rain and he pulls a blanket over his head and crawls under some branches to take shelter. He falls asleep. Does he suffer anything from the exposure to the cold? Any hypothermia or frostbite or anything else?

He's wet, he's out of energy, he's dehydrated. Even if he keeps walking, he's going into hypothermia. He could wake up very dead.


It doesn't matter to my story if he does, but I'm trying to think realistically. I want him to be asleep or otherwise out of it until a pair of kids begin poking him with sticks. At that point, I don't really care if he leaps up, refreshed from his nap, or passes out again. What physical effects would be realistic given my scenario?

They may think he's dead, then drunk. His extremities will be very cold. He will be very lethargic, unresponsive, and incoherent.

Revival - unless he gets warmth or energy from an external source, it isn't going to happen. He'll slide deeper into hypothermia.

They could give him something sweet to drink, call an ambulance or healer (whatever), haul him inside and put hot packs on him.

Sarpedon
04-04-2008, 11:32 PM
If its raining, why is he dehydrated? If I were dehydrated, and it started to rain, I'd drink the rain, not take a nap.

FinbarReilly
04-04-2008, 11:33 PM
Trick Question, folks; pay attention to the details.

1) Early December in Germany is just above freezing; it may not be incredibly warm, but it's just above the threshold of worry if you do it right.

2) The blanket would act as insulation, at least to some degree. More importantly, it would also act as layering, enabling the character to gain an actual heating effect. As long as the branches are reasonably dense (such as a fir trees, which are common in Germany, especially in the Black Forest) and the blanket isn't completely soaked
(which assumes that the tree is big enough for the person to lay under), hypothermia is possible, but not that likely.

3) However, the person isn't exactly going to be springing up. The most likely result would be grogginess at best, especially given the physical abuse of the last few days; he's going to need help, which should be reasonably easy to find in Germany...


If it helps...
FR

jclarkdawe
04-05-2008, 01:19 AM
I have a character who has been traveling on foot through central Germany for some days. How many miles per day? How many days? How is he dressed? What condition are his feet in? How fit was he when he started? Any underlying medical conditions? What is his age? All of this effects his baseline on the night in question.

It's early December. Can be anything from somewhat mild to below freezing, depending on the weather pattern. The colder the temperature and the less properly prepared he is, the greater the consequences.

He's exhausted, hungry, dehydrated. It would be unlikely that he's dehydrated. Absent a medical condition or age (elderly people don't tend to drink enough), dehydration occurs predominantly from either heat or lack of water. Germany has enough streams and other water sources so that's not a problem. It's possible that someone could gradually dehydrate themselves from the exercise, but especially with hunger, he'd probably be drinking quite a bit.

If he's dehydrated to any significant degree, he would be disoriented and probably imagining things. Especially combined with his hunger.

Hunger is going to be a question of how many calories he's been ingesting. Is he on zero calories, 500, 1000, 2000, or just the level of hunger that most people feel with this level of exercise? Besides generating energy for walking, calories are what we use to provide heat. It's possible that his core temperature has dropped below 98.6. It could have dropped significantly before he even stops.

It starts to rain and he pulls a blanket over his head and crawls under some branches to take shelter. He falls asleep. Does he suffer anything from the exposure to the cold? Any hypothermia or frostbite or anything else? Depending upon your setup, anything from a nice, deep, relaxing sleep to death rather quickly from hypothermia. Pulling the blanket over his head and getting under the trees doesn't sound like he's too disoriented, so he probably isn't dehydrated and not too hungry.

My guess is he'd sleep the sleep of the dead, but probably with no serious effects.

It doesn't matter to my story if he does, but I'm trying to think realistically. I want him to be asleep or otherwise out of it until a pair of kids begin poking him with sticks. At that point, I don't really care if he leaps up, refreshed from his nap, or passes out again. What physical effects would be realistic given my scenario?

Thank you in advance!!

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

PastMidnight
04-05-2008, 01:27 AM
The character was dehydrated before the rain started, Sarpedon, but good question. I don't know that the character has anything to catch rain with. Something to think about, though, as a different way to structure the scene.

Thanks for the responses. So far confirms what I suspected: hypothermia possible, but frostbite not likely. As a follow up question, if a person is warming up after even mild hypothermia or exposure, what might they be feeling?

Mike Martyn
04-05-2008, 01:28 AM
To some degree it depends on the material of the blanket. Assuming we're not talking of high tech sythetics, wool is best as I recall since it dries from the inside out. Ie. Your body heat will dry the layer next to you skin and and start the insulating effect. Cotton-nylon blends are bad because they don't do that and the wet blanket will leech away your body heat.

Also, it doesn't have to be extremely cold to bring on hypothemia. You'll die of it in 70 degree water if you're immersed in it for enough time.

Speaking from personal experience, hypothemia is sneaky. You start out shivering and after a while, your body temperature starts to drop. I'm guessing but at about 92 Degrees F you stop shivering and strangley enough you feel nice and warm . You can become delusional. In my case, I thought I was flying over the snow. I was a skinny 13 year old at the time and probably had about 1% body fat. Remember, body fat supplies insulation so consider whether your character is fat or thin.

PastMidnight
04-05-2008, 01:38 AM
Posted while you were typing, Jim. Great questions!



I have a character who has been traveling on foot through central Germany for some days. How many miles per day? How many days? How is he dressed? What condition are his feet in? How fit was he when he started? Any underlying medical conditions? What is his age? All of this effects his baseline on the night in question.

He is young and was in moderate but not great health when he started. He's been traveling for anywhere from a few days to a week with minimum amount of food. Don't know that I can tell you how many miles a day, but he's traveling to get where he's going as quickly as he can, so he's not dawdling. He's traveling as steadily as his body will allow. It's actually not a night in question, but a day. He falls asleep in the late morning.

It's early December. Can be anything from somewhat mild to below freezing, depending on the weather pattern. The colder the temperature and the less properly prepared he is, the greater the consequences.

Yes, I suppose this is the part where I have a bit of leeway. I have a small range of possible temperatures I can work with.

He's exhausted, hungry, dehydrated. It would be unlikely that he's dehydrated. Absent a medical condition or age (elderly people don't tend to drink enough), dehydration occurs predominantly from either heat or lack of water. Germany has enough streams and other water sources so that's not a problem. It's possible that someone could gradually dehydrate themselves from the exercise, but especially with hunger, he'd probably be drinking quite a bit.

He's been getting as much water as he can, but doesn't have a means of carrying water with him. I didn't mention that he woke up this particular morning hungover.

If he's dehydrated to any significant degree, he would be disoriented and probably imagining things. Especially combined with his hunger.

Hunger is going to be a question of how many calories he's been ingesting. Is he on zero calories, 500, 1000, 2000, or just the level of hunger that most people feel with this level of exercise? Besides generating energy for walking, calories are what we use to provide heat. It's possible that his core temperature has dropped below 98.6. It could have dropped significantly before he even stops.

He has sporadic access to food, so he hasn't been going days without food, but he has been going days without adequate and nutritious food.

It starts to rain and he pulls a blanket over his head and crawls under some branches to take shelter. He falls asleep. Does he suffer anything from the exposure to the cold? Any hypothermia or frostbite or anything else? Depending upon your setup, anything from a nice, deep, relaxing sleep to death rather quickly from hypothermia. Pulling the blanket over his head and getting under the trees doesn't sound like he's too disoriented, so he probably isn't dehydrated and not too hungry.

My guess is he'd sleep the sleep of the dead, but probably with no serious effects.

Great. 'The sleep of the dead' works for me. You're exactly right in that he isn't disoriented at all when he crawls under the trees with his blanket. I was just concerned that I would push the bounds of realism if I had him wake up after that with no ill effects.

Thanks for the great questions!

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

PastMidnight
04-05-2008, 01:44 AM
To some degree it depends on the material of the blanket. Assuming we're not talking of high tech sythetics, wool is best as I recall since it dries from the inside out. Ie. Your body heat will dry the layer next to you skin and and start the insulating effect. Cotton-nylon blends are bad because they don't do that and the wet blanket will leech away your body heat.

Also, it doesn't have to be extremely cold to bring on hypothemia. You'll die of it in 70 degree water if you're immersed in it for enough time.

Speaking from personal experience, hypothemia is sneaky. You start out shivering and after a while, your body temperature starts to drop. I'm guessing but at about 92 Degrees F you stop shivering and strangley enough you feel nice and warm . You can become delusional. In my case, I thought I was flying over the snow. I was a skinny 13 year old at the time and probably had about 1% body fat. Remember, body fat supplies insulation so consider whether your character is fat or thin.

Good point about the wool blanket. I didn't consider the material of the blanket.

And thank you for the personal experience. It's already been established that my character is very thin and he's been doing nothing but losing weight recently. Great details to include if I add in hypothermia. Thanks!

StephanieFox
04-05-2008, 06:20 AM
If he has a blanket, maybe it should be a very light blanket, maybe with a couple of moth holes. But why is he carrying a blanket around. If it's chilly or cold, why isn't he wearing a coat.

There was a case in Minnesota about 10 years ago. A farm women and her kids were trying to drive to their neighbors about 1/3 mile away. The car broke down about halfway there.It wa the middle of winter and very cold (-20 maybe?). They had coats, but since she was in the warm car, she didn't bring gloves. By the time she got to her neighbors for help, her hands were badly frostbitten because he's been holding her children's hands.

If you live in the upper midwest, you know ther weather can kill you. It's not like a big storm, just the cold and the wet. We keep an eye on the weather at all times.

Kathie Freeman
04-05-2008, 06:56 PM
I didn't mention that he woke up this particular morning hungover.

No food but he's got booze? Also, drinking can lead to dehydration.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-05-2008, 09:34 PM
Trick Question, folks; pay attention to the details.

1) Early December in Germany is just above freezing; it may not be incredibly warm, but it's just above the threshold of worry if you do it right.

The peak danger time for hypothermia (citing my Outdoor Emergency Care training) is when it's just the conditions she's describing. It's called "dying of exposure" instead of freezing to death.

It's insidious - you don't realize you are getting chilled until you are already into the stupid stage.

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007098.html from Jim McDonald

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-05-2008, 09:56 PM
Thanks for the responses. So far confirms what I suspected: hypothermia possible, but frostbite not likely. As a follow up question, if a person is warming up after even mild hypothermia or exposure, what might they be feeling?

Your body minimizes blood flow to your extremities, so lactic acid builds up.

If he's not shivering, he's in serious trouble: shivering is your body's attempt to get warm. If I find someone wandering sown a road, shivering and bitching, they just need some sweets and a warm car and some hot packs. If they aren't shivering any more, and feel "just fine" they need a hospital.

You shiver violently as soon as you get some extra calories to shiver with, you may feel nauseated as the blood starts to circulate, bringing back the stale stuff from your limbs.

ADDING: And you may feel like you have been beaten up, with muscle aches and a headache, from allthe lactic acid.

PastMidnight
04-05-2008, 11:53 PM
If he has a blanket, maybe it should be a very light blanket, maybe with a couple of moth holes. But why is he carrying a blanket around. If it's chilly or cold, why isn't he wearing a coat.


He does have a coat, just not a heavy one. His blanket also isn't a particularly heavy one. He's carrying it because he's on a journey.



No food but he's got booze? Also, drinking can lead to dehydration.

Booze and very little food. Hey, I didn't say my character was smart, did I? ;) He was drinking the previous night in a very misguided effort to stay warm and woke up the morning in question feeling colder and more dehydrated because of it.

PastMidnight
04-05-2008, 11:56 PM
The peak danger time for hypothermia (citing my Outdoor Emergency Care training) is when it's just the conditions she's describing. It's called "dying of exposure" instead of freezing to death.

It's insidious - you don't realize you are getting chilled until you are already into the stupid stage.


Thanks, that's what I thought. It's not snowing or anything, so he doesn't think he has anything to worry about.


Your body minimizes blood flow to your extremities, so lactic acid builds up.

If he's not shivering, he's in serious trouble: shivering is your body's attempt to get warm. If I find someone wandering sown a road, shivering and bitching, they just need some sweets and a warm car and some hot packs. If they aren't shivering any more, and feel "just fine" they need a hospital.

You shiver violently as soon as you get some extra calories to shiver with, you may feel nauseated as the blood starts to circulate, bringing back the stale stuff from your limbs.

ADDING: And you may feel like you have been beaten up, with muscle aches and a headache, from allthe lactic acid.


Great details! Very helpful. Thanks!

Tish Davidson
04-06-2008, 01:17 AM
You shiver violently as soon as you get some extra calories to shiver with, you may feel nauseated as the blood starts to circulate, bringing back the stale stuff from your limbs.

ADDING: And you may feel like you have been beaten up, with muscle aches and a headache, from allthe lactic acid.

My experience exactly when I had a run-in with hypothermia years ago - shivering, nausea, vomiting, headache, more shivering, more nausea, and my best friend alternately swearing at me and then telling me I was going to be okay. This was in the White Mountains in New Hampshire at the end of a physically exhausting day spent in 45 degree rain.

FinbarReilly
04-06-2008, 06:04 AM
The peak danger time for hypothermia (citing my Outdoor Emergency Care training) is when it's just the conditions she's describing. It's called "dying of exposure" instead of freezing to death.

It's insidious - you don't realize you are getting chilled until you are already into the stupid stage.

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007098.html from Jim McDonald
The reason that I said it was at the threshold is beacause I'm constantly outside at that temp, and I know that a light jacket backed by insulation while keeping dry should be enough to keep someone alive. Strangely, the alcohol would actually help in this case, as it would help warm him for a bit.

In other words, if the situation changed just a little bit, such as not being able to find somewhere dry, could result in his death. BUT we're being asked to see if the situation would allow someone to be alive in the morning, not if that person could die horribly....

FR