Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 29 Number 1: 1-11 - January 1967

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Physical and Physiological Factors in Fatal Exposures to Cold
Marlin B. Kreider


The deaths of three cave explorers recently from exposure to cold came as a surprise because of the moderate climate of most caves. The special conditions not usually present simultaneously during cave explorations which contributed to these fatalities are: (1) frequent or continuous exposure to cold water, (2) continuation and even intensification of the exposure after the first signs of deterioration from the cold are apparent, (3) the necessity to perform heavy and skilled work in order to make an exit from the cave during this period of increased cold exposure when fatigue from hours of exploring is severe, and (4) wearing of lightweight clothing. When the first signs of deterioration due to cold appeared, rewarming should have begun immediately becasue this is when body temperature began to drop more rapidly than before. In these cases where death is assumed to be due to hypothermia, it must have dropped very rapidly since death came within 1.5 hours. of the first signs of deterioration. The personal factors which provides a high capacity for exercise and thus for body heath production; good nutritional status; good health; large body size and fat content; abstinence from drugs affecting performance and body function. However, since cooling in water is two to four times faster than in air, the use of protective clothing is necessary. Layered woolen clothing, covered by an outer shell of tight weave which is closed at the cuffs, sleeves and neck to reduce convective cooling, give the next best proteciton to that of a foam rubber suit during water immersion.

This page last updated: 9 July, 2002 8:37
Web Author: Jim Pisarowicz