Cold shock response
noun – Cold shock response is the human body’s physiological reaction to swimming in cold water.
In humans, cold shock response is perhaps the most common cause of death from immersion in very cold water, such as by falling through thin ice. The immediate shock of the cold causes involuntary inhalation, which if underwater can result in drowning. The cold water can also cause heart attack due to vasoconstriction; the heart has to work harder to pump the same volume of blood throughout the body.
It is possible to undergo physiological conditioning to reduce the cold shock response, and some people are naturally better suited to swimming in very cold water. Adaptations include the following:
- having an insulating layer of body fat covering the limbs and torso without being overweight;
- ability to experience immersion without involuntary physical shock or mental panic;
- ability to resist shivering;
- ability to raise metabolism (and, in some cases, increase blood temperature slightly above the normal level;
- a slight but significant ability to mentally control blood flow to the muscles: and
- a generalized delaying of metabolic shutdown (including slipping into unconsciousness) as central and peripheral body temperatures fall.
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