The Impact of Summer Heat on Decedent Care

The Impact of Summer Heat on Decedent Care

Summer is here and so are seasonal decedent care concerns. While there can be a myriad of season-related issues, we are going to focus on how the increase in temperature will accelerate decomposition, bacterial growth and an increased number of insects resulting in elevated rates of infestation.

As Temperatures Go Up, So Does Decomposition

Decomposition of compounds in the body is a chemical reaction. It is a well-accepted fact that increasing the temperature can speed up chemical reactions. This is because many reactions require energy to move towards completion. Heat is a form of energy that can accelerate reactions. One rationale for refrigeration is to lower the temperature to slow reactions that occur in the body. The other option is embalming. Embalming is defined as the preservation, disinfection and sanitation of human remains with the use of chemicals. Often this is achieved through arterial embalming but other methods such as topical embalming can be applied as well. Frigid Fluid offers a wide selection of arterial and cavity chemicals that meet the needs of any imaginable situation.

The Impact of Temperature on Bacterial Growth

Another concern with increasing temperatures is bacterial growth. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments which are often present during the summer months. As the rate of decomposition increases, so does the food available for bacteria to consume. This results in an increase in bacterial numbers and activity. To combat this, it is important to utilize refrigeration and the proper concentration of embalming solution when working with human remains during the summer. Embalming includes the destruction of bacteria. Sanitation, through embalming, can be achieved using formaldehyde to link bacterial proteins. Neutralization of the proteins kills the bacteria. An example of this is the neutralization of bacterial digestive enzymes. Without functional enzymes, bacteria are unable to process food stuffs for nourishment. This is an example of only one class of protein that makes up bacteria. There are many more, including proteins for motility, resistance, and proliferation.

Tissue gas is of particular importance when considering decedent care during the summer months. Tissue gas is caused by the bacteria Clostridium perfringens. Clostridium perfringens is an anaerobic gram-positive spore-forming bacillus associated with acute gastrointestinal infections ranging in severity from diarrhea to necrotizing enterocolitis and myonecrosis in humans1. Like all bacteria, C. perfringens has the capacity to translocate throughout a deceased body. C. perfringens can be a challenge during the embalming process. It is known to be resistant to formaldehyde, so it requires additional chemicals to limit this destructive bacterium. Frigid STOP (1-STOP-12), contains a chemical specifically developed to kill tissue gas. STOP can be purchased in 16-ounce bottles. Additionally, Frigid offers 36+ (1-36PL), an arterial fluid that has 10% STOP in its formulation; and Premium Cavity (1-PREMCAV), which also has STOP in it. This additive is great for cases where you might not suspect tissue gas but want the added security that it will not spread if it is present.

Increased Insect Infestation

As the temperature rises, so does the number of insects that are attracted to decomposing tissue. During summer months, many species of insect can become problematic: flies and ants among others. It is widely known that fly larva can survive on embalmed tissue. This can be particularly problematic during the summer months when flies and other insects are more prevalent. Frigid STOP (1-STOP-12) is also effective at killing insects and larva including maggots that are known to be particularly tenacious. It is also suggested to seal off orifices, such as the nostrils and mouth, to prevent the deposition of fly eggs.

In summary, the heat of summer can have a significant impact on decedent care. Temperature increases can accelerate decomposition, increase bacterial growth, and lead to a higher likelihood of insect infestation.


  1. Yoa, P., & Annamaraju, P. (n.d.). Clostridium Perfringens. National Library of Medicine.

Dr. Damon de la Cruz

Blog contributed by:

Dr. Damon de la Cruz

Dr. de la Cruz is the Director of Education at Frigid Fluid. He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer and has taught funeral service education for over a decade. His doctorate is in molecular pathology. Damon has developed several funeral service smartphone applications and is the author of Turning Art Into Science: Chemistry for Funeral Service.

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