It is a sad reality that, here in Phoenix, people sometimes die without anyone else knowing about their passing for days, weeks, even months. In that time, the body decays and is often only found because of a foul odor, concerned family member or neighbor entering the property, or someone discovers the body outside. How decomposed that body is when found depends on many factors including hot and cold temperatures. Out here under our desert sun where it is hot for long periods of the year, bodies tend to decompose faster and create more needed cleanup when found.
How fast does a body start decomposing after death?
Once someone passes away, the decomposition of their body as they return to the earth is a natural process. Within minutes after death, the body starts cooling, flies come to lay their eggs, and the bacteria already inside us start to process dead cells and produce gas. For a short time, it can be hard to tell a person has passed away but as the interior decomposition process speeds up, the exterior also shows signs of breaking down.
Heat speeds things up
The process of decomposition is affected by many factors – the two main ones being the surrounding temperature and humidity levels. Bodies decompose fastest in hot and moist environments. With higher temperatures, the bacteria in a body produce gas at a faster rate which creates more openings in the skin for flies to lay their eggs. Heat also helps break down cell structures and the liquification of bodily fluids occur in a shorter timeline. This faster decomposition process also creates more odor leading other insects and animals to the body to help break with the breakdown process. With high humidity, the body stays moist making it easier for gas to seep through and for insects to find openings in the skin. Things stay pliable and are easier for insects and bacteria to digest.
High heat slows the process down
While heat speeds up the process of decomposition, it only does so up to a point. In extremely hot and dry temperatures, instead of decomposing, the body is mummified. With moisture from the body absorbed into the dry air, the skin grows tough and hard to break through. Fly larvae, too, die off at temperatures between 104F° and 122F°, thus slowing down the breaking down of the body tissues and fluids.
Indoor vs. outdoor heat
If a body is found indoors in hot weather, it is usually further along in the decomposition process than if left outside. Between four walls, the moisture in a body stays in the surrounding air and the body does not dry out, thus speeding along the process. Bloating, too, occurs at a faster rate and the fly larvae quickly grow as they process the remains. If left outside in the direct sunlight, however, there is likely to not be as many larvae on the body as both larvae and adult flies prefer the shade and it’s more difficult for larvae to survive in direct sunlight. Thus, they can’t process the body as quickly as they could in the shade of a house.
No matter what the temperature is, if a person dies in a modern home with few to no openings for insects to find their way through and all the windows are shut, the body breakdown will be slow. In older homes with more openings for flies and other insects to crawl through and find the body, the process of decomposition will be much faster.
We are always available to help you
Here in Phoenix, Arizona, our team sees all stages of body decomposition. With our high desert heat and numerous insects, bodies tend to break down quickly and we are called in to clean and restore the area.
If your loved one has passed without being discovered for a time, rely on professional biohazard cleaners to decontaminate the area. Even if your loved one was healthy before passing away, the byproducts of body decomposition can make other people sick and without professional equipment, the odor is difficult to remove. With us, we will fully restore the area making it safe for you and your family.
If you have any questions or need a free consultation on how we can restore your property, we are always available to help you in any way we can.