What Happens To The Body During Decayment?

June 23, 2022

Written by Owner

When someone dies, their body begins to decompose. This process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, and it’s important to know what happens during this time and how it looks like to properly handle the situation.

In times of tragedy, it is important to be as well-informed as possible. Understanding what happens during this process, can help you identify certain situations and give the correct information to the authorities. This blog will help you understand the process of decomposition and why to call a biohazard cleanup company to handle it.


The 4 Stages Of Human Decomposition

Fresh stage

The first stage of decomposition is the fresh or active phase. During this time, bacteria begin breaking down internal tissues and releasing body gases. This usually occurs within minutes to hours after death has occurred. Depending on environmental factors like temperature and humidity levels, it can last anywhere from a few days to several months. 

For example, if an individual dies in hot weather conditions during summertime, they will decompose more quickly than someone who died under cold winter temperatures at night-time.

This process starts with livor mortis when blood stops circulating through the veins due to lack of oxygenation through breathing or heartbeat. 

External signs of decay in this stage include: 

  • Livor mortis (bluish-purple discoloration)
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Green or black discoloration of the skin


Bloating stage

The second stage of decomposition is the bloating stage. This usually lasts for a few weeks to several months. As the body decomposes, bacteria break down the tissues and release gases that cause the body to bloat. 

The skin will start to split open as gas accumulates inside tissues, and fluids like urine and saliva may seep from the mouth and nose. In extreme cases, bloating may cause the entire body to burst open.

At this decomposition point, fly activity will increase as they are drawn to the scent of decay. Larvae will also begin to form on or near the corpse as they feed off of dead flesh. 

External signs of decay include: 

  • Swelling of the body
  • Skin blisters and slippage due to gas formation within tissues
  • The separation between the skin and muscle tissue (skin may slip off like a glove)
  • Foul odor caused by decay gases
  • Black or green discoloration of the skin around orifices such as mouth, nose, eyes, and anus. 
  • Maggots on the corpse. 
  • Flies buzz around the face and open wounds of your loved one’s deceased body. 
  • Smell similar to rotting meat in advanced stages when it is time for burial preparation.          


Decomposition stage

The third stage is the decomposition or advanced decay phase. This usually occurs two to six weeks past death, but it can last as long as several months also depending on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity levels. 

During this period, internal organs liquefy due to bacterial activity breaking down tissues within the body cavities. 

External signs include: 

  • Loss of skin elasticity (the skin becomes loose) 
  • Skin slippage around areas like knees, elbows, and shoulders where there was no fat present before death 
  • Due to gas accumulation within the body, Bloating causes it to swell and look like a balloon. 
  • There is an increase in maggot activity with larvae moving deeper into the tissue underneath the skin’s surface.        
  • Little flesh is left on the body’s bones because bacteria and/or larvae will have consumed most tissues, muscles, and even bone marrow. 


Skeletonization stage

During the final stages of decomposition, your deceased loved one’s body will become a dried-out, mummified-like husk. This usually occurs two to three months after death in temperate conditions and up to six months when extremely hot outside. 

In times like these, grieving family members must be extra careful not to walk through any areas where their legs could inadvertently scrape away some tiny fragments of what used to be bone material mixed with whatever particles might have been left behind from the body itself.

External signs include:

  • Bones will be left with no signs of flesh 


No Corpse Is Left Unattended

Death is so unpredictable and sudden that it’s okay to feel confused and overwhelmed about everything going on. If you ever find yourself in a tragic situation that involves a corpse in any of these stages, the best you can do is contact the authorities, followed by a call to USA Bio Care.

If you want to erase that traumatic scene from your home as soon as possible and don’t wish to make any burial arrangements, we completely understand. We perform cadaver removal and disposal services following all legal standards and safety guidelines, along with biohazard treatment procedures. 

No matter what conditions the body is in, our team of cleaning experts ensures you with a disinfected and 100% clean area.


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