Print this page

Search activities

Hypothermia

Category: Illnesses and disabilities

Type

Involuntary and voluntary

Introduction and description

Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions.

Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant 36.5–37.5 °C (98–100 °F) through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation. If exposed to cold and the internal mechanisms are unable to replenish the heat that is being lost, a drop in core temperature occurs. As body temperature decreases, characteristic symptoms occur such as shivering and mental confusion.  The lowest documented body temperature from which anyone has recovered was 13.0 °C (55.4 °F), in a drowning incident involving a 7-year-old girl in Sweden in December 2010.

 The temperature bands are as follows

  • Normal                         36.5–37.5 °C                         (97.7–99.5 °F)
  • Hypothermia                <35.0 °C                    (95.0 °F)
  • Fever                            >37.5–38.3 °C                         (99.5–100.9 °F)
  • Hyperthermia               >37.5–38.3 °C                         (99.5–100.9 °F)
  • Hyperpyrexia               >40.0–41.5 °C                         (104–106.7 °F)

 Hypothermia is subdivided into four different degrees, mild 32–35 °C (90–95 °F); moderate, 28–32 °C (82–90 °F); severe, 20–28 °C (68–82 °F); and profound at less than 20 °C (68 °F)

Background

In a number of largely shamanic societies and also in religions such as Shinto, it is not uncommon for the rituals of initiation or priesthood to contain ‘purification’ ceremonies that involved bathing in extremely cold water.

Siberian shamans and a number of Eskimo tribal shamans were sometimes made to undergo a rite of passage that involved breaking holes in the ice and then swimming underwater between the holes.

In Shinto, priests often perfomed ritual bathing in extremely cold water in winter.

All of these processes effectively work via hypothermia.

Symptoms

Mild

 Symptoms of mild hypothermia principally involve the sympathetic nervous system.  A person may get intense shivering, their blood pressure may increase as blood vessels are constricted in order to conserve heat.  The heart may pound trying to pump blood round to enable the body to warm up.  Even at this mild stage, there will be the beginnings of mental confusion and the liver is affected.  Glucose consumption by cells and insulin secretion both decrease.

Moderate

As the body temperature lowers, the shivering becomes more violent. Because the muscles are not being supplied with energy in the form of oxygen or glucose [as glucose production is slowed], muscle mis-coordination becomes apparent. The person will have great difficulty doing anything requiring much movement or co-ordination.  Mental confusion may increase.  Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses its remaining resources on keeping the vital organs warm. The person will become pale. Lips, ears, fingers and toes may become blue.

Severe

The mental confusion increase far more at this stage and the person will have difficulty in speaking, difficulty in reasoning and amnesia will start to appear; the muscle and co-ordination problems will get worse.  Cellular metabolic processes shut down. Below 30 °C (86 °F), the person will show marked  incoherent/irrational behavior. Pulse and respiration rates decrease significantly, but fast heart rates (ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation) can occur. Major organs fail. Clinical death occurs. Because of decreased cellular activity in stage 3 hypothermia, the body will actually take longer to undergo brain death.

How it works

Physically

Hypothermia produces hypoxia.  The body constricts the blood vessels and the supply of oxygen to the brain is reduced.  Heart rate and respiration rate increase as the heart attempts to supply enough oxygen to the body, but after some time this will be ineffective.  It is at this point that spiritual experience may occur ranging from hallucinations to full out of body experiences.  If the hypothermia is very severe, the person may get a near death experience.

Logically

It may be helpful now to refer to the Model of the Mind and to have read the generic description of How spiritual experience works.

Cold of this nature is a threat.  Much of our  Reasoning and Memory are not essential functions.  Thus these two functions are actually suppressed. 

What takes the place of these functions is an overwhelming input of messages from the sensory systems – all of them – that says HELP HELP HELP – we are being deprived of oxygen – all of us, we are dying DO SOMETHING. 

But the Will, is unable to do something – it has no learnt function with which to counter the Threat and it is struggling all the time to ensure the Autonomic systems keep going.

Eventually the Will exhausted by the battle, gives in and the Composer takes over and we have our spiritual experience.

Related observations