Paradoxical Undressing


Twenty to fifty percent of hypothermia deaths are associated with paradoxical undressing. This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing, which, in turn, increases the rate of heat loss.

A Polar Bear or Ursus Maritimus

Rescuers who are trained in mountain survival techniques are taught to expect this; however, some may assume incorrectly that urban victims of hypothermia have been subjected to a sexual assault.

One explanation for the effect is a cold-induced malfunction of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Another explanation is that the muscles contracting peripheral blood vessels become exhausted – known as a loss of vasomotor tone – and relax, leading to a sudden surge of blood and heat to the extremities, fooling the person into feeling overheated.

The victim’s warm blood rushing from their core, coupled with the removal of warm clothing, causes their body temperature to fall even faster. This serves to hasten death from hypothermia and results in another case of paradoxical undressing.

Mountaineers with hypothermia have been known to push aside warm clothing and resist rescuers’ efforts to warm them. It is interesting to note that there are no known hypothermia victims who have reached the stage of paradoxical undressing and survived without outside intervention.

Unfortunately, the most likely place where hypothermia will occur is in a freezing situation, and the last place you would like to take all your clothes off is at such a cold place.

On top of that, it might be ironic to note that in the event you encounter a polar bear and you find yourself in a position where you are not able to defend yourself or flee by means of a car or sledge, you can take your clothes off one-by-one and leave them behind. This will buy you some time because the intrigued polar bear will stop chasing you in order to smell your clothes. Again, you will most probably encounter a wild polar bear in a place where your clothes are vital equipment to ensure your survival.

It is still unknown whether slowly undressing while fleeing from a polar bear instead of running away when remaining dressed increases your chances of survival. According to American (turned British) comedian Rich Hall: the best way to stay out of the reach of a polar bear is not to outrun it, but simply to outrun your friend.

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