How Long Does It Take To Freeze To Death? Important Facts

by Derrick | Last Updated: June 14, 2021

What is the lowest temperature a human can survive? How long does it take to freeze to death in extreme cold? These are questions that many people have asked at some point in their lives. In this post, we will answer these questions and explain how quickly your body loses heat when exposed to cold temperatures.

Humans may freeze to death when their internal body temperature drops below 70 degrees, but you can lose consciousness at 82 F (28 C).

In subzero temperatures, a human could freeze to death in as little as 10-20 minutes.

What’s The Lowest Temperature a Human Can Survive?

Survival rate tests are not something that generally is acceptable; it can be hazardous to perform these tests and could risk long-term health issues on study participants.

Figuring out the precise temperature a human freezes to death is actually hard.

We know that different people respond differently to the cold; when people were stranded out in really cold conditions, we know people have had wildly different reactions as the core body temperature continued to drop.

Speed of temperature changes can have a significant impact on how the human body reacts to changes. For example, suppose the temperature slowly drops. In that case, the body can generally continue to function without a severe reaction to a certain point.

If the temperatures change quickly, it can be significantly more noticeable. Your body can take some drastic measures to respond to quickly declining temperatures.

We typically die from the cold as a result of our body temperature reaching below 70 degrees.

When Does a Person Freeze to Death?

It is hard for us to stay warm when our core body temperature starts to go down. We usually have a core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your core body temperature goes below 95 degrees, then you are getting too cold and might risk death from hypothermia.

You don’t have to be in freezing temperatures to experience hypothermia. While the average person would need to experience frigid weather, you can actually suffer from hypothermia at modest temperatures, between 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re wet, the temperature range maybe even higher. This is because your body loses temperature much faster in water than in air.

What Is Hypothermia?

According to Mayoclinic, hypothermia is when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it.

Your body temperature drops below 35°C (95°F). Symptoms can include shivering, confusion, fumbling hands, and memory loss. If not treated immediately, it may lead to death.

People are at risk for hypothermia, usually when they’re exposed to cold temperatures, have wet clothing, or are immersed in cold water.

Who Is At Risk Of Getting Severe Hypothermia and Why 

Anyone who’s in a cold environment is wearing wet clothing or has been swimming in the water(in cold temperatures) should be worried about hypothermia.

The most common groups with a high risk of hypothermia are the elderly, babies, and those who are in a physically weakened state.

Elderly people may also be reasonably susceptible to hypothermia; often, the elderly are on numerous medications that could impact their ability to withstand the cold, such as blood pressure medication, beta-blockers, and other such medications.

What Are The Five Stages of Hypothermia

According to the North Shore Rescue, the five stages of hypothermia are as follows:

HT I: Mild Hypothermia, 35-32 °C

Normal or near-normal consciousness, shivering

HT II: Moderate Hypothermia, 32-28 °C

Shivering stops, consciousness becomes impaired

HT III: Severe Hypothermia, 24-28 °C

Unconscious, it may be challenging to detect vital signs

HT IV: Apparent Death, 15-24 °C

HT V: Death from irreversible hypothermia

How To Survive Subzero Temperatures and Avoid Hypothermia?

In subzero temperatures, the human body can start to freeze in just 10-20 minutes. That’s why outdoor enthusiasts must be equipped with proper cold-weather gear when they head out for adventures in the cold.

To avoid hypothermia, wear layers of clothing when you are out in the cold. By wearing layers, you can remove or add layers, ensuring you aren’t too warm (which will create sweat) and then make you cold or too cold.

If you feel like you are struggling with the cold, look to leave the cold in any way possible. For example, if you are near a vehicle, immediately try to get to the vehicle and turn the heat on. Likewise, if you are near your house or another heated structure, you can step out of the cold to warm up.

Sometimes a heated vehicle or heated structure isn’t available. In that case, you should try and build a fire before using your hands, or your motor skills decline to a point where it is impossible to do so.

The Best Way To Treat Hypothermia

To treat hypothermia:

  1. Remove wet clothing and replace it with dry clothes.
  2. Wrap the person in a blanket or towel.
  3. Place him or her near a warm object such as a stove or have them drink some hot tea (or other warm liquid) to help raise body temperature.

Suppose you are experiencing moderate to severe hypothermia. In that case, you should see immediate emergency treatment and not try and self-treat the condition.

Avoiding Hypothermia

Obviously, avoiding hypothermia is the best course of action.

To do that, you should check the weather before you go outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather you will be experiencing, stay well-hydrated, keep dry whenever(avoid wet clothes) possible and eat enough calories, so your body has the fuel necessary to function properly and help maintain your core body temperature.


In conclusion, hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that can occur at any time. The key to prevention is knowing the risk factors and being experienced enough to recognize when you are starting to experience some of the earlier symptoms of hypothermia.

As discussed earlier, the best treatment for moderate or severe cases is immediate emergency medical intervention.

In milder cases, self-treatment may be appropriate. Still, you should not try this if you have been exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended time.