Suffocating in sleep

9:50 a.m. on October 28, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

a.k.a. Karl

Does anyone know how the body reacts in the following situation? A person is under a bivy sack, tarp or semi-collapsed tent (not a lot of air space), covered in a foot or so of snow. The person falls asleep and begins to run out of oxygen.
Question: Do they just slip away and suffocate? or when the O2 level gets so low they wake up gaging or something?

Just wondering about the importance of keeping a vent open. Wondering if that's how two people on Rainier this year died apparently in their bags under a tent fly after only one night. Maybe they were wet, too.???

Karl

10:49 a.m. on October 28, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

here's how I got this T-shirt

On one of my earliest trips and proll the first couple times I ever used a bivy sack. We climbed up onto an exposed ridge arrving late in the dark. About that time the wind started to blow and being there in a high chaboni factor, boiled / ate sitting outside in the full wind and got chilled to uncontrollable shivering. Jumped inside my sack and still felt the wind coming through my zipper so I zipped it tight. Sometime later I awoke by not being able to catch my breath - coughing and in a panic so bad I had a hard time finding the zip in the dark. When I did get it open I pulled it to my waist and sat there.

There is a natural reaction in the brain that wont allow oneself to suffocate oneself - why you cant hold your breath until you pass out and die. You might pass out but your brain will say hey, I need O2 and you will breath - or like in the sufficating under a tent / snow, your body will do its best to gag for air, not just fall asleep. I do beleive the term is Braxton-Hicks = like being at alt.

Carbon-dioxide poisioning you will slip away into sleep never to wake up = cooking in a tent or such.

Belay-Off
Ice Dawg
Obsession + Compulsion = Addicted

11:21 a.m. on October 28, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

a.k.a. Karl
Re: here's how I got this T-shirt

Thanks for the insights. However, if you say that with CO2 poisoning you will slip away, isn't that what happens in such a condition--you use up all the good O2 and replace it in the limited air around you with CO2???

6:03 p.m. on October 28, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

As far as I'm aware you would be dead. The CO2 would knock you out and you would not be alerted. We were on McKinley and still had to get the right balance of being too cold and not letting enough air in. If we did the latter, air was still getting in and all we had was a headache

Steve

9:19 a.m. on October 29, 2002 (EST)
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408 forum posts
Mighta meant "CO"

Quote:

Thanks for the insights. However, if you say that with CO2 poisoning you will slip away, isn't that what happens in such a condition--you use up all the good O2 and replace it in the limited air around you with CO2???

Stoves, especially with water on the bottom of the pan or burning inefficiently, will create a ton of carbon monoxide. Your hemoglobin loves CO more than O2. And, its oderless and colorless.

I think CO2 is needed to regulate breathing...er something...

Brian in SLC

12:42 p.m. on October 29, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

science 101

Carbon Monoixed = a poisonous gas released from burning fossil / carbon fuels. The lungs sort of transfers O2 but the mono puts you to sleep and then kills you - like going into surgery if the gas was not stopped.

Carbon Dioxid = a gas released in expelled breath. Your lungs will not tranfersing O2 and you begin to gasp for air.

Very generalization of the facts but the big factor is one is poisonous to the human body and one is not.

Belay-Off
Ice Dawg
Obsession + Compulsion = Addicted

6:02 p.m. on October 29, 2002 (EST)
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Is the dawg expecting puppies??

Quote:

I do beleive the term is Braxton-Hicks = like being at alt.

Braxton Hicks contractions are associated with being pregnant, methinks...false labor pains?

Can we expect the pitter patter of little puppy feet? What will your bivy partner think?

Quote:

Carbon-dioxide poisioning you will slip away into sleep never to wake up = cooking in a tent or such.

CO, carbon monoxide, is the bad actor. Hemoglobin has a higher affinity for it than O2 so it attaches and you quickly become hypoxic. Must not be a warning light in the upstairs for CO levels in the bloodstream like there is for O2 and CO2. A feller needs CO2 to regulate breathing. Its not a poison in "normal" concentrations. Hypercarbia? Hypoxia? I'll bet mr upstairs monitors this whilst ye sleep and shoots you full of adrenaline so you wake up and take a huge breath.

Its cookin' in the tent thats a killer. And...fallin' asleep while the stove is simmering, especially if the simmer turns into an inefficient orange flame (producing huge amounts of CO) through sleepy neglect, then, its lights out forever.

Scary.

Brian in SLC

7:27 a.m. on October 30, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

?

Some really good misinformation in this post.

Ex. "Carbon-dioxide poisioning you will slip away into sleep never to wake up = cooking in a tent or such."

12:19 p.m. on October 30, 2002 (EST)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
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Re: ?

Well why don't you enlighten us then?

Quote:

Some really good misinformation in this post.

8:21 p.m. on October 30, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

Others already have

One of the other posters has already explained the CO/CO2 thing in detail.

I'm not a doctor or a chemist, so I will not give advice in that area. That was the point of my post.

9:05 p.m. on October 30, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

so...

Quote:

One of the other posters has already explained the CO/CO2 thing in detail.

I'm not a doctor or a chemist, so I will not give advice in that area. That was the point of my post.

9:08 p.m. on October 30, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

so...

it's always easier to be critical than correct and none of the time or energy wasted being critical, either writing it or reading it, it is very helpful.

sorry 'bout the double post, a little quick on the trigger

10:20 p.m. on November 30, 2003 (EST)
(Guest)

Quote:

Does anyone know how the body reacts in the following situation? A person is under a bivy sack, tarp or semi-collapsed tent (not a lot of air space), covered in a foot or so of snow. The person falls asleep and begins to run out of oxygen.
Question: Do they just slip away and suffocate? or when the O2 level gets so low they wake up gaging or something?

Just wondering about the importance of keeping a vent open. Wondering if that's how two people on Rainier this year died apparently in their bags under a tent fly after only one night. Maybe they were wet, too.???

Karl


Carbon Monoxide (CO) will cause you to become sleepy and you could die without intervention.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) will cause you to gasp which is your body's natural reaction. If asleep you will be awoken in a panic. HOWEVER: You could die if you are impaired (physically restricted or under influence of Alcohol, drugs or poison).

I have some experience with this as I used to manufacture bivy sacks. A few years back I received a packet of information from the Consumer Product Safety Commision researching a fatality using a bivy sack. I had to provide them with samples of my materials, construction techniques, litrature and a listing of every bivy sack I had sold in the previous 3 years. Due to the record keeping I have I was able to account for every one I ever made. I placed a call to the CPSC to inquire, and was told that they had to contact all 14 known manufacturers of Bivy Sacks. I checked with some others in the industry and one who researched the incident. It seems a person in Connecticut crawled into a sleeping bag and into a bivy sack after be severely inebriated and was found dead the next morning. I heard from an MD that he would have had the same result if he was only in the sleeping bag.
Best thing is to leave the bivy open (more air, less condensation, less clausterphobia) until the outside conditions warrant closing it up.

Jim Cormier
Cormier Mountaineering

July 25, 2014
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