Space & Innovation

Why People Get Naked Before Freezing To Death

Studies show that many people dying of hypothermia undress right before they freeze to death. Why? What causes this paradoxical behavior?

Here at Seeker World Headquarters, actually a network of Precambrian tunnels beneath Wrigley Field in Chicago, we endeavor to follow science wherever she might lead. As such, we have an update on the weirdness that is paradoxical undressing, a documented phenomenon in which people who are freezing to death strip off their clothes just before they die.

According to two recent studies, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of people who die from hypothermia exhibit signs of this bizarre behavior – they're found naked or partially undressed after literally freezing to death. Scientists don't have a definitive answer to the puzzle, but they do have some theories concerning constricting blood vessels and malfunctioning hypothalamuses. Say that three times fast. Sapna Parikh has the details in today's exceptionally cool DNews report.

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Read More:

New Scientist: The word: Paradoxical undressing

ScienceDirect: Forensic diagnosis of death from cold

NCBI: "Paradoxical undressing" in fatal hypothermia