Paradoxical Salad Dressing

Paradoxical salad dressing is terrible.

What is it? Well, it occurs when you pour too much salad dressing on your salad.

Why is that bad?

Because then your salad becomes worse than it initially was without the salad dressing.

And then you don’t win friends with your salad, because your salad tastes bad.


This is tragic, because salad dressing is designed to make salad better. Paradoxically, it’s made it worse.

Paradoxical undressing, on the other hand, is also an undesirable occurrence.

Is it when you take your clothes off and that ironically repulses people from wanting to sleep with you?

No, it’s not.

Rather, it’s a phenomenon that occurs in the final stages of hypothermia.


Hypothermia is when body temperature becomes abnormally low. <35°C is a good guide.

This can be precipitated by events such as swimming in icy water or being exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Paradoxical undressing

You would expect a hypothermic person to feel extremely cold. You would expect, then, a desire to put more clothes on.

Paradoxically, in very severe hypothermia, this is not the case. As a stark precursor to death, victims in the final stages of hypothermia are seized by the urge to remove clothing.

A postulated mechanism is as follows:

  1. Person is exposed to cold environment
  2. Cutaneous and subcutaneous thermoreceptors detect cold, inducing peripheral vasoconstriction to conserve heat
  3. Peripheral vasoconstriction occurs
  4. This compensation is insufficient to maintain core body temperature
  5. Person develops hypothermia
  6. Vasoconstriction can no longer be maintained
    1. Possibility: hypothalamic function is impaired, so it cannot control vasoconstriction normally
    2. Possibility: vasoconstriction is an active, energy-consuming process from smooth muscle contraction, whereas vasodilation is passive from smooth muscle relaxation
  7. Peripheral vasodilation occurs
  8. Person feels hot and tries to take off clothes
  9. More heat loss, so body temperature is lowered even further
  10. Person dies


  1. Wedin, B., Vanggaard, L., & Hirvonen, J. (1979). “Paradoxical undressing” in fatal hypothermia. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 24(3), 543-553. doi:10.1520/JFS10867J
  2. BMJ Best Practice. Hypothermia. Retrieved from
  3. Wilderness Medicine Newsletter. (2007, February 7). Hypothermia & Paradoxical Undressing. Retrieved from
  4. Auerbach, P. S. (2011). Wilderness medicine (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Elsevier Mosby.

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