What temperature can the human body withstand?

to surviveIt works still?

Extreme heat, extreme cold, lack of oxygen - what a human body can withstand and when it stops.

Business class looks different - a boy hides in the landing gear well of an airplane, flies five hours undetected to Hawaii, passes out, but survives this extreme load at minus 50 to 60 degrees Celsius. What can a human body withstand? We talked to Hanns Christian Gunga about this. He is professor for space medicine and extreme environments at the Charité in Berlin.

At an altitude of eleven to twelve kilometers, the lack of oxygen actually causes a stowaway to become unconscious within seconds. The second big problem: the extreme cold at lofty heights. Even at sea level, people suffered frostbite on their nose, hands and ears within seconds at temperatures between minus 50 and minus 60 degrees Celsius. Without extreme clothing, the body would be frozen through within half an hour.

The human skin is filled with receptors that respond to cold. The result: the body begins to tremble, a mechanism for generating warmth. In the case of an unclothed body, the great tremor begins at five to six degrees outside temperature; if the thermometer falls below zero degrees, the intensity increases significantly. The problem: At some point the energy reserves in the muscles are used up, so the body cannot shiver warmly forever, the person becomes unconscious and ultimately dies of cardiac arrhythmias.

"If a window bursts in an airplane at an altitude of 6,000 meters, the pilot has a minute or two to descend from that altitude before the passengers become unconscious."
Space medicine professor Hanns Christian Gunga on the stress limits of the human body

On the other end of the thermometer: extreme heat. Basically, at 27 to 31 degrees we feel good when we are outside without clothes. If the skin temperature rises above 32 degrees Celsius, we start to sweat. An untrained person can sweat up to one or two liters per hour, says Hanns Christian Gunga. If you are exposed to such temperatures for five hours, you lose up to ten liters of fluid.

On a march through Death Valley, we die of fluid loss after a day and a half. The parched desert hiker first falls into delirium and then passes out. The own mechanisms to compensate for the heat then fail - a phenomenon known as heat stroke - a disruption of the central temperature regulation in the brain. A preliminary stage of heat stroke: a light-headed feeling or a slight dizziness in the great heat. The body then tries to release the amount of heat by increasing the blood flow to the skin.

Passed out in seconds

The third extreme of a trip in the landing gear: lack of oxygen. Basically, the body can cope with heights of 5000 to 6000 meters. If a window in an airplane bursts at this altitude, the pilot has up to two minutes to descend to 4,000 meters. At 11,000 meters, a person would become unconscious within seconds.