science What Happens to Your Body When You’re Boiled to Death  

Laura Allan
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Being boiled alive sounds like a horrible way to die - that's because it is. Death by being boiled used to be a common punishment in the 1500s, and while this way of killing someone isn't used anymore, accidents involving hot springs and open sewers can result in people being boiled to death. You may be wondering what being boiled to death is like. Can you be boiled alive? Is that even possible? Yes, yes it is. 

Nowadays, boiling to death is usually the result of an accident: giving yourself heat stroke from a hot bath, or falling into a hot spring, for example. If you're curious as to what being boiled alive feels like, you're in luck. But be warned - it isn't pretty. 

You're Going to Feel Your Limbs Burn

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Some assume that if you're being boiled, you'll be so hot you won't actually feel the sensation that you're burning. Unfortunately, that's not the case. As boiling water touches your body, your limbs and extremities are going to be the first things to actually burn, and your fingers have more nerve endings than many other areas. So, yes, you'll feel it, and it'll be intense pain. And, to make matters worse, it will be a prolonged one too. 

It'll Be a Slow, Terrifying Death

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So, how fast does all this happen exactly? Sad to say, it's not quick, and its pace depends on how exactly you're being boiled. If the temperature of the water is raised after you're already submerged, it can take a very long time. Your body will need time to adjust to the heat, and you won't go into shock, making the pain last a while. If you're dunked under, head and all, your brain can boil, which speeds up how fast you die. But in accidents and in methods of torture, this death is pretty slow. It'll be minutes, even hours before you die. The physical effects of boiling to death prove this to be pretty frightening experience to go through, even up to your last breath. 

Your Organs Will Begin to Cook

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After your outer layers begin to cook, your innards will begin to cook too. The heat itself will cook your skin, flesh, and fat. The fluids your organs rest in will begin to rise in temperature, until that fluid is boiling as well. This literally boils and cooks your stomach, liver, heart, kidneys, and intestines in their own juices on the inside of your body. Even if, after death, your body shows no sign of serious damage, an autopsy will still show that all your organs are cooked to perfection inside you. 

You'll Be Conscious for Much of the Time

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Considering all the pain you'll endure, it's safe to assume you'd immediately become unconscious, right? Unfortunately, no. While the pain can eventually cause you to go into shock or a state of unconsciousness, evidence shows that - at least for a majority of the time - you will be aware of what's happening to you. In the cases where people fell into boiling sewers, and in cases of those who fell into hot springs, onlookers report that people stay conscious throughout the experience. They try to swim, climb out, call for help, and escape their watery death, even as the heat cooks them alive. Once out, they reportedly have the presence of mind to ask how bad the burn is or to ask for help from friends. These facts all lead to the conclusion that you'll be conscious the whole time your body dies around you, and you'll feel much of it to some extent.

You May Smell Yourself Cooking

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As you find yourself boiling, you'll notice a strange smell in the air around you. That's the unique smell of cooking human flesh - your human flesh, to be exact. Apparently, human flesh has a very specific smell when it's cooking, and being boiled cooks both the skin and muscles the same way you might boil or poach meat. Some call it a sweet or musky odor. So, as you begin to die, you'll at least know whether you smell delicious or not.

Your Nerve Endings Will Begin to Die

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Initially, your nerve endings are going to be practically screaming, telling your brain they need help. The kind of pain this is going to cause is pretty much indescribable, and it won't be over right away either. Slowly, though, your nerve endings will die as you cook. As you reach the point of third-degree burns, the heat will singe your nerve endings and then kill them, all the way down to the root in some cases. This deadens your sense of touch, pain, and sensation in general, and this damage can be permanent if you manage to survive.

The Steam Will Start to Burn You Before You Even Touch the Water

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If you've ever taken the lid off a boiling pot too fast and gotten a puff of steam right to the hands or wrist, you probably know that steam can - and will - burn you. Now, imagine you're falling into a large body of boiling water. Maybe a hot spring, or a sewer grate, or a huge pot for torture purposes: whichever way you go, there's lots of steam. Before you even reach the water, that steam is going to burn your skin, eyes, and lungs. Your pain begins before you even break the water's surface.

Your Fat Will Start to Break Down

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Beneath your skin, there is a layer of subcutaneous fat that keeps you warm and protects your body. Unfortunately, as you burn, that layer of fat is going to cook as well. In fact, the heat from boiling breaks down the fat and proteins, making your cells stick together on an individual level. This means blood doesn't flow right, you don't feel things correctly, and your entire outer layer turns to a globby, cooked mush. Your skin may also turn leathery or hard and may begin to peel back in places. At this point, you're going to look like a nightmare, even if you're not feeling intense pain anymore.