Does Eating Snow Dehydrate You? [What You Need to Know]

You might ask yourself, ‘does eating snow dehydrate you?’ Eating snow seems like a good idea at first. Perhaps it’s because the snow color white suggests that it is pure and safe to eat.

However, you would be seriously mistaken. Eating snow does dehydrate you. From the time you eat snow, your body kicks into overdrive. Before the body can process the snow, it must use its heat to melt it. The body needs to use its water reserves to activate this stored energy.

So, what’s the difference? The snow I’m eating will turn into water. Well, not exactly. The amount of energy and water stores your body needs to melt the snow outweighs the amount of water you will be gaining from eating the snow.

dehydrated woman

In addition to not getting hydrated from eating snow, eating snow depletes your own body of water reserves, and this will likely cause more potential problems. Snow has many hidden toxins that may not be safe to consume before boiling.

The human body is already in a dehydrated state after eating snow. Therefore, it makes it much more difficult for your organs to filter these toxins assuming they will be able to.

How to Eat Snow in a Survival Situation

Eating snow will drop your body temperature regardless of whether you are in a hot or cold climate. As a reference point, think about why you crave an ice-cold drink on a hot summer day. It is because it will cool down your body.

For this reason, hypothermia is a severe threat if deciding to eat snow in a cold climate.

The snow will give you short-term satisfaction from eating it but cool the body’s internal temperature, dramatically adding more problems to the survival situation. 

In a survival situation, boil the snow first before consuming it.

Doing this will kill all unknown contaminants and provide you with hot water assuming you will be in a cold environment when contemplating whether or not to eat snow.

Eating Snow in a Blizzard

A person’s priorities might change due to a survival situation turning into adverse conditions. For instance, what if someone finds themselves caught in the middle of a blizzard? After hunkering down out of the elements, your focus will turn to food and water.

Naturally, a person might think of collecting some fresh snow from the snowstorm. Nonetheless, the snow from a blizzard mixes with pollen and dust from the trees and the soil from the ground.

Depending on the environment, it is likely that the engulfing snow in a blizzard is dirty and not safe to consume.

Eating Snow in Extreme Conditions

Provided that shelter, food, and body warmth are under control, your next inclination will likely be to have water. If you have no resources to produce fire, collect some white snow from underneath the surface layer.

As a last resort, put the smallest amount you can manage in your mouth so your body does not have to work harder than it needs to melt the snow. At any rate, this is the last case scenario to be considered.

Is it Okay to Consume Discolored Snow?

It would be best if you were wary of eating or processing snow that is not entirely white. Snow that is discolored is an indication that it is visibly contaminated and not safe to consume. 

Varying environmental conditions, including air pollution, animal droppings, unseen fungi, roadway chemicals, algae, pollen, soot, and dust, are the leading causes of snow to be discolored. 

In fact, in a recent study by Scientific American, “thawing permafrost is releasing microorganisms, with consequences that are still largely unknown.”

For more information on their findings, click here.

Snow That is Safe to Consume

Generally speaking, it is safe to consume fresh snow collected from the sky if it is not the first snowfall of the year. This type of snow is clean and safer to eat as long as the atmosphere is not polluted.

However, even fresh falling snow still has contaminants and should be melted and purified before consumption to err on the side of caution.

If fresh snow is not an option, your next best bet is to collect the whitest snow you can find from the ground. It is best practice to dig down past the top layer of snow because the top layer will have higher contaminants.

On the other hand, make sure not to collect snow too close to ground level either. For this reason, look for snow that is the whitest in color.

Snow that is Unsafe to Consume

Avoid consuming snow from the first snowfall of the year. This snow attracts the most pollution from the air making it unsafe for consumption.

The first snowfall gets rid of much of the buildup of toxins that accumulates in the atmosphere. By and large, the longer the snowfall, the cleaner the atmosphere will be.

In addition to environmental factors tarnishing the purity of the snow, the same holds for the abundance of living organisms found in the snow. Always err on the side of caution if unsure whether or not the snow is safe to consume.

You should be aware of other types of snow that pose potential threats: snow near roadways, plowed snow, falling snow from trees or plants, and discolored snow.

Key Takeaways

Eating snow can be thought of as drinking rainwater or spring water from a stream with the added risks of lowering a person’s internal body temperature and further dehydration. The unknown environmental factors pose a threat to anyone considering eating snow.

It is a calculated risk the individual must take into account when presented with the option of whether or not to eat snow.

A person who grew up in the snowy uplands will have a different opinion than someone visiting the snow for the first time.

Regardless, the surrounding snowfall will be contaminated if the atmosphere is polluted. All are worth considering before you decide to eat snow. Hopefully, now you better understand whether or not to eat snow.

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