elmenora (elmenora) wrote in little_details,

Plausability check on hypothermia/survival situation

I've been looking into information on hypothermia, and would appreciate some feedback on how plausible the scenario is.  It's for a couple of outdoor survival type scenes, and I'd like to not kill the character by accident!

Setting: outdoors, winter in an arid location.  World is alternate non-fantasy historic-ish setting with approximately roman empire level of technology, though I'm borrowing some from medieval Islamic societies.

Character: same man at different points in life, 15 and late 40's.  Youth is small for his age and thin, dressed in wool pants and a thick felt vest but barefoot and shirtless.  Adult is tall, moderately underweight, and wearing several layers of thin cotton and wool clothing (including long sleeved shirt), hat and boots.  Both are used to the local climate and live outdoors year-round.  Both are in good physical condition with no serious health problems.

The scenes:
I'm going for parallel scenes - the current one sparks a childhood memory for the character involved - so I want them to be similar but not an exact match.  In both cases the character has been separated from his traveling companions, has run out of supplies in the winter, and is helped by a stranger.

As a boy he was chilled to the point of uncontrollable shivering, sat down exhausted by the side of the road, and was picked up by some passing travelers.  They take him into their tent and wrap him in blankets, give him some food, and send him off in the morning with shoes and a warm tunic.  The weather here is barely cold enough for frost to be on the ground, but with no wind and lots of sun.  He doesn't run into serious trouble until after dark and until he is too tired to keep moving.

As an adult he is caught out in a bad storm and takes shelter behind a fence.  He hasn't had any food for about two days and is mildly dehydrated.  It's gusty (20-30 mph winds), about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and raining hard.  He has a horse with him and stays next to it.  After a few hours the property owner comes out to check something and sees him.  By that point he is shivering, starting to loose coordination, and his lips are turning blue.  He's taken inside and given warm dry clothes, hot soup, and a spot near the fire.  He stays for several days before leaving so he won't be out in the storm again.

The questions:

1.  Are these appropriate weather conditions and length of time to get him to the right stages of hypothermia?  If not, what would be more reasonable?

2. Is the treatment he gets as an adult sufficient for recovery?  The people helping him have no medical knowledge aside from common sense, so they're going for "warm him up, he's cold!"  But I don't want him to die from being warmed up in the wrong way.

3. In the given situation, how long before he's back to normal?  How bad would it be for him to go back on the road before he's completely better?  I don't want him taking longer than a week to recover from either episode, and can change the scene to make that work.

Search terms: hypothermia, exposure, survival, wet, rain, time, symptoms, windchill, temperature, treatment, recovery (in various combinations)
Tags: ~medicine: hypothermia, ~wilderness survival

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