"Paradoxical undressing" in fatal hypothermia

J Forensic Sci. 1979 Jul;24(3):543-53.


The phenomenon called paradoxical undressing has been described from 33 cases of hypothermia collected from Swedish police reports. The cases were almost evenly distributed with regard to sex, age, and geographical distribution. The cases occurred more frequently in open land although cases from town areas were also found. Most incidents were recorded from November to February at low ambient temperatures, although cases were also reported at temperatures above 0 degree C. Arteriosclerosis and chronic alcoholism were important concomitant illnesses, the latter being frequent in middle-aged men. Epilepsy, diabetes, and pregnancy were present in single cases. Ethanol and other drugs were present in 67% of the males and in 78% of the females, ethanol predominating in men and various psychotropic agents in women. The mean blood ethanol concentration in males was 0.16% and in females, 0.18%. Most frequent findings at necropsy were purple spots or discoloration on the extremities, pulmonary edema, and gastric hemorrhages. It is concluded that paradoxical undressing might be explained by changes in peripheral vasoconstriction in the deeply hypothermic person. It represents the last effort of the victim and is followed almost immediately by unconsciousness and death.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Temperature
  • Clothing*
  • Cold Climate
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / mortality
  • Hypothermia / pathology*
  • Hypothermia / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects
  • Thermosensing


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Ethanol