• Tammy Euliano

To Touch a Corpse

I have a question about body temperature and death. Would the skin be cold when feeling for a pulse after 4 hours, on a summer afternoon but after a heavy rainstorm. Would the rain be enough to cool the skin or would it still be warm to the touch? Thanks so much!

What an interesting question. Not something I know off-hand, but here’s what I found…

Old ‘rules of thumb’:

  • body temperature falls by 1.5 degrees F (<1 degree C) per hour

  • time since death (in hours) = fall in body temperature from 37 degrees C + 3

  • skin feels cold 2-4 hours post mortem indoors (6-8 hours in protected areas)

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So you are used to a body feeling like it’s 37C (98.6F). After four hours, falling at 1.5 degrees per hour, it would be 92 degrees. Of course if the ambient temperature is higher than that, it won’t fall, but that’s mighty hot even in the summer. And rain would cool the skin even faster, the rainwater is significantly cooler and conducts heat easily from the body to the surrounding air.

So yes, I believe the skin would be cool to the touch.



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