Frozen Mythbusters: Myth #13 of 13.
There are a variety of myths regarding human response to cold exposure. These myths are explained and debunked by Dr. Murray Hamlet, DMV, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, PHD, and Frank Hubbell, DO. After posting the thirteen myths, a complete article from the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter will be loaded for anyone interested in all the chilly little details.
Exposing the patient to remove cold, wet clothing will cause a large drop in their core temperature.
I have heard it stated many times that you cannot strip a person out of their cold, wet clothes in the field because this will cause their core temperature to plummet. This simply is not true. These patients are already vasoconstricted in the peripheral circulation, (i.e. the skin), so unless they are allowed to lie around naked for 10 minutes, they are not going to cool off. It is much more important for them to be dry and reinsulated with dry clothing than to remain cold and wet.
I have heard it taught in the past that you should leave them wet, that they will warm the water next to their skin and will stop losing body heat, just like in a wet suit. First of all, you do continue to lose heat in a wet suit; it is just slower than without it. As long as these patients are damp, moist, or wet, they will continue to lose heat much more than if they are dry.
Busted – Hypothermics have to be dry to be warm. Do not hesitate to strip them out of wet, moist, or damp clothing, right down to their bare skin, and then protect them with dry clothing or insulation.
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