Why is thermal regulation essential to survival?
Thermoregulation is a consistent need of the human body.
Our bodies have built-in mechanisms to generate heat when it’s cold (e.g. shivering) and stay cool when the temperature in the environment begins to rise.
However, in extreme situations, the body’s natural thermoregulation system becomes inadequate to main normal body temperature.
As a survivalist, you are expected to know what to do when natural thermoregulation is no longer sufficient.
We are going to focus on the vital concepts that will help you understand why your body responds to temperature fluctuations and what you can do to help it stay warm/cool as dictated by your immediate surroundings.
What happens to the human body at specific temperatures?
Knowing what might happen to your body is the first step in preventing problems when you are faced with extremes of temperature. Here is a summarized list of temperature aftereffects that you should be aware of:
100-190 degrees Fahrenheit (70%-85% humidity) – Possible heatstroke in less than 15 minutes
95-117 degrees Fahrenheit (40%-65% humidity) – High risk of developing muscular cramps. Dehydration becomes imminent.
85-92 degrees Fahrenheit (45%-75% humidity) – Chronic discomfort while performing physical activities
19-40 degrees Fahrenheit (50%-70% humidity) – Relatively acceptable conditions for physical activities
5-30 degrees Fahrenheit (45%-75% humidity) – Person begins experiencing discomfort related to cold temperature, especially if no physically activities are being performed. Thermal regulation now required.
-2 – 7 degrees Fahrenheit (35%-50% humidity) – Frostbite likely to develop in less than 40 minutes exposure
-5 - -31 degrees Fahrenheit (45%-55% humidity) - Frostbite likely to develop in less than 20 minutes exposure
-15 - -48 degrees Fahrenheit (50%-60% humidity) - Frostbite imminent in less than 15 minutes exposure
-35 - -81 degrees Fahrenheit (70%-85% humidity) - Frostbite imminent in less than 7 minutes exposure
Humidity tends to magnify the negative effects of extreme heat on the body while the average wind speed in your location can speed up the negative impact of the cold.
How does the cold affect your body’s functioning?
The bitter cold is one of the survivalist’s most fatal enemies. In a resource-scarce environment, nothing can be more exhausting than having to stay mobile in a freezing landscape.
Have you ever wondered why many wilderness explorers and adrenaline junkies speak of terrifying stories about freezing temperatures? The truth can actually be found in how our bodies react to the cold.
Here is a story of the human body as it descends into the freezing abyss:
I. At 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the body begins to shiver – a sure sign that it is attempting to generate extra heat by moving our muscles about.
II. At 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the shivering reflex begins to dwindle and muscle coordination begins to falter, too.
III. At 85 degrees Fahrenheit, a person’s mental faculty begins to fog. An unprepared individual may cease to notice things around him and the effects of the cold on his body.
IV. At temperatures below 85 degrees Fahrenheit, an unprotected person will begin to experience symptoms of profound hypothermia. Profound hypothermia has been known to cause clinical comas in the fittest individuals. Death also occurs in a percentage of cases.
How does excess heat damage the human body?
All types of temperature extremes can negatively impact your body. While it is true that the cold can render a person lifeless very quickly, excessive heat is no friendlier to the human body:
I. At 104 degrees Fahrenheit, a person may begin to experience symptoms of heat sickness such as inexplicable vomiting and prolonged nausea. These symptoms will not abate unless the person is removed from the overheated environment.
II. At 106 degrees Fahrenheit, a person may suffer from brain damage.
III. At temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a person can suddenly succumb to the heat. A less fatal outcome would be coma, which is the most fatal of the symptoms of heat sickness.
Why are these figures important?
The numbers that I have just showed you were not meant to frighten anyone.
Yes, the potential outcomes of poor thermoregulation are horrific. However, you must always bear in mind that you can do many, many things to prevent these worst case scenarios from ever touching you.
The purpose of showing you the precise outcomes of too much warmth and excessive cold is to familiarize you with the body’s response pattern to changes in temperature.
By responding adequately to the signals that your body is sending out, you can prevent severe temperature-related sickness from ever making an appearance.