How Long A Person Survives In Cold Water (And Why?)

How Long A Person Survives In Cold Water (And Why?)

Exact Answer :- Around 12 hours

Well, it is quite difficult to define this term “cold water”. Sometimes, it is said to be the temperature around 70°C. According to the National Oceanographic Data Center, 21°C- 25°C is where most people feel comfortable swimming. Well, it’s still considered to be cold.

The normal body temperature of a human being is 32°C. But whatif a human body is immersed in cold water(having nearly double it’s temperature)? The body first leads to disorientation further leading to unconsciousness and death.

How Long A Person Survives In Cold Water

How Long A Person Survives In Cold Water?

Water Temperature ( in °C)Expected Survival Time
0.3Under 15 to 45min.
0.3 – 4.530 to 90 min.
4.5 – 101 to 3hrs
10 – 15.51 to 6 hrs.
15.5 – 212 to 40hrs.
21 – 26.53hrs. to indefinite
Over 26.5indefinite

The expected survival time depends on the temperature of water, the age and physique of the victim and the facial immersion.

While talking of age, the younger the victim, the more chances of survival. It has been reported that children have been rescued after 30minutes of drowning in cold water.

The small victims have large surface area to volume ratio thereby resulting in greater heat loss.

The obese persons have a lot of adipose tissue which helps is production of heat and insulation. This is why, obese persons can survive better than lean persons although they may suffer more breathing problems as compared to lean persons.

Another factor which affects the expected time of survival is the facial immersion, which means how much portion of the body is immersed underwater.

Water takes away more heat than air, even if the temperature is higher than air temperature. The more the body is immersed, the faster the heat is drained away.

While talking of temperature, the survival is different at different temperatures. When the temperature of water is over 26.5°C, the person can survive indefinitely but upto 12 hours. When the temperature is between 21°C to 26.5°C, the person can survive upto 3hours.

When the temperature lies in the range of 21°C to 15.5°C, the person can survive upto 2hours. When the temperature falls below 15.5°C but ranges within 10°C, the person can survive maximum upto one hour.

When the temperature falls below 10°C, the person survives for less than one hour. The expected survival time when the temperature falls down gradually.

Why Can A Person Survive That Long In Cold Water?

The body first reacts by the cold shock response during the first three minutes. During this period, the person starts breathing heavily and uncontrollably. He/she is panicked and shocked which can strain the person’s body leading to cardiac arrest. The person thrashes helplessly in water for some time and then the body gets adjusted and tries to find survival techniques.

Longer stays in cold water can even result in frostbite( freezing of muscle, skin and nerve tissue) and hypothermia (drop in temperature of the body). At first, hypothermia occurs which leads to frostbite.

Cold water takes away the body heat 32 times faster than cold air. First of all, cold water takes away heat from the body. To replenish this heat being drawn by cold water, the body adopts different methods like shivering to produce body heat. The person also starts swimming as a survival technique.

However, shivering extracts heat from the body at a faster pace. Swimming and other such activities deprive the body from heat further more. The muscles get fatigued leading to the freezing of the body.

As the body temperature falls below 32°C, the body stops receiving the sensation of cold or pain. This is because the muscles get stiffened cold paralyzes the nerves. The performance of brain is reduced thereby reducing the movement of the body. The body gets numbed and stops responding. At this point of time, the person fails to grasp the lifesaving resources.

The decrease in performance of brain or injuries in brain may also lead to Amnesia (also called as short- term memory). This memory loss may be temporary or permanent.

Once the temperature falls below 29°C, the heartbeat reduces to almost 2 to 3 times per minute. But when the temperature falls below 20°C, blood vessels dilate thereby reducing the blood pressure and leading to death.

The person’s recovered successfully may also show some symptoms like death which includes blue coloration of the body, stoppage of breathing, dilation of pupils etc. This does not exactly represent that the person is dead. The person can still be resuscitated.


The body strives a lot to survive in cold water. But, at a certain point it fails and the person dies. At first, one should try to get out of water as soon as possible. The person should not panic and keep trying his/ her best to survive.


dot 1
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

23 thoughts on “How Long A Person Survives In Cold Water (And Why?)”

  1. The scientific rigor of this article in elucidating cold water survival mechanisms is commendable. It’s an essential resource for fostering informed understanding of these dynamics.

    1. Absolutely right, Yvonne. This depth of scientific insight is indispensable for promoting accurate awareness and preparedness in cold water-related scenarios.

  2. The detailed explanation about the body’s physiological responses to cold water immersion is an eye-opener. It underscores the importance of understanding these dynamics.

    1. Absolutely, Justine. This scientific breakdown of cold water survival factors is a valuable resource for enhancing public awareness and preparedness.

  3. I appreciate the scientific depth of this analysis on cold water survival. It provides valuable information backed by scientific evidence.

    1. The level of detail in this article is impressive. It helps to dispel common misconceptions about cold water survival.

    2. I couldn’t agree more, Jonathan. It’s refreshing to see such a thorough scientific explanation of these phenomena.

  4. Avatar of Robertson George
    Robertson George

    This piece presents a comprehensive overview of the risks associated with cold water immersion. The survival factors outlined here are crucial to understand.

    1. Absolutely, George. This information can save lives and should be widely shared to raise awareness about the dangers of cold water.

    2. Indeed, the scientific insights provided here shed light on the critical aspects of cold water survival and the human body’s response to extreme conditions.

  5. This article goes above and beyond in providing a scientifically grounded analysis of cold water survival. It’s a crucial resource for educating the public about such risks.

    1. I completely agree, Fbailey. This level of scientific detail is instrumental in dispelling myths and promoting accurate awareness about cold water dangers.

  6. The detailed explanation about expected survival time and the physiological responses of the body in cold water is quite insightful.

    1. Avatar of Richardson Hannah
      Richardson Hannah

      I completely agree, Sofia. It’s crucial for people to understand these factors to prevent accidents and mitigate risks when exposed to cold water.

  7. The in-depth exploration of factors influencing cold water survival is impressive. It offers a comprehensive understanding of these crucial dynamics.

    1. Absolutely, Lbennett. This detailed scientific analysis contributes significantly to public knowledge about the risks and consequences of cold water exposure.

    2. Avatar of Robinson Michael
      Robinson Michael

      The scientific insights presented here are invaluable for raising awareness about the real challenges associated with cold water immersion.

  8. This information is quite helpful to understand how the body reacts to cold water. It’s important to be aware of these risks when swimming in cold temperatures.

    1. Absolutely right, Daisy. This information should be shared more widely to raise awareness about the potential risks of cold water swimming.

  9. The breakdown of survival time based on water temperature is both informative and eye-opening. An essential read for anyone engaged in water-related activities.

    1. Absolutely right, Thomas. This detailed analysis offers a significant contribution to understanding the risks and responses related to cold water exposure.

  10. The explanation of the body’s response to cold water immersion is fascinating. It highlights the critical factors influencing survival in cold water scenarios.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Gary. This article provides valuable insights for individuals and rescuers dealing with cold water emergencies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *