Lost Raccoon (lostraccoon) wrote in little_details,
Lost Raccoon

Isolation in cold salt water

The character is an adult male, early to mid- 30’s. Healthy. Athletic. In the course of the story he spends weeks suffering severe mental stress which ultimately leads him to a bad decision which causes his current situation: He’s gotten trapped in an Isolation Float Tank (kinda like this: http://blog.ernestsemerda.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/tanklayout3.png or this: http://www.elixa.com/float/index.3.jpg)

The tank contains about a foot of extremely salty water (think Dead Sea) and the water would normally be body temperature, but this one’s been sitting abandoned for a while so the water’s gone cold (room temp). The character is trapped inside, the tank is long enough he can stretch out, but is no where close to tall enough for him to stand, he can sit upright. The floor is very slippery. It is pitch black, no lights at all. It’s also soundproof, he can’t hear anything outside the tank. The guy is still completely clothed when he gets stuck. I haven’t completely decided yet, but he’ll be trapped for somewhere between 24-48 hours. What kinds of medical concerns might effect him?

I’ve researched hypothermia, this site: http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/coastal_communities/hypothermia#time was really helpful with it’s charts of how long a person can expect to survive in various water temperatures. I’m thinking the water temperature is something like 68-70° and according to that site in water temperature of 60-70, the average person can survive 2-7 hours before being exhausted, and 2-40 hours before death. While in water temperature of 70-80, the average person can survive 3-12 hours before being exhausted, and can potentially not die.

Those rates are referring to someone who is submerged in water, obviously, and this guy is only sitting in 12 inches, in a small room, not exposed to weather, with all his clothes intact, so obviously he won’t be as extremely affected as the charts suggest, but he'd still develop a mild case of hypothermia, yeah?

I also tried to look up whether the fact that it’s salt water he’s sitting in for a long time would have any consequences. I had a hard time finding anything, but what I did find merely suggests that long exposure to salt would simply be abrasive: causing some itching on the skin, or a burning sensation if it got in the eyes or a wound. (character has a few scrapes, but no open wounds) But would sitting in salt water dry out the body? I know sitting in a bath too long gets your fingers all pruny, but would it have any effect like that in this case?

Obviously he has no food while trapped, but 48 hours without eating isn’t a big deal. How much would dehydration set in? The water he’s sitting in is way too salty to drink (I found plenty of information on what happens if you try drink salt water) He’s also trapped there long enough that I figure he’ll eventually urinate in the water, contaminating it even worse for drinking. So the real question is, would he ever get thirsty enough to the point where he’d try to drink it anyway? (character isn’t’ a doctor, but he’s smart enough to know he shouldn’t. I guess the question is would he get dehydrated enough to be so desperate he’d try anyway)

I think he’d be sleep deprived too, I mean, I image the floor is slick and if he tries to lean against a wall he would find himself inevitably slipping down lower and lower in the water. I figure he can probably ind a way to wedge himself upright in a corner, and get in a few naps, but he can’t seriously sleep like this. Then again, I guess 48 hours is not so very long to go without sleep.

Okay, final question: would there be any effects of being in complete darkness for this length of time? This is one thing I’ve had the hardest time finding. When I google light deprivation I mostly get one of two things: how to fight off seasonal depression or densely medical articles about the development of the eye. Neither of these are helpful. I did find some interesting information in “prisoner’s cinema” which is a phenomena of people who are stuck without light for a long period of time report hallucinating lights. I found one site (but have now lost it) that mentioned spelunkers in caves and miners having reported the same experience. This wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed-eye_hallucination talks about the kinds of hallucinations that light-deprivation would cause. I guess I’m mostly just wondering if anyone here knows of any other effects than what little I’ve manged to turn up. Just because what I have found seems…. kinda insignificant…
Tags: ~medicine (misc), ~medicine: hypothermia

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