Will Dry Ice Kill You?

I almost killed myself back in 2014 or so.

No, it wasn't on purpose.

We got more orders than usual, so I went to go pick up a large order of dry ice. I paid for it, and a nice fellow loaded 100 lbs of it into the back of the hatchback.

I didn't know how that would almost kill me.

I got in the car, closed the doors, turned on the A/C & drove off. The dry ice shop is in the Point Loma area and our office is 15 highway minutes south, just south of downtown San Diego, in Barrio Logan.

I called Lee and we talked through what we had to do biz-wise that day, but I felt a bit breathless.

Weird, because even though I'm not in ultra-marathon shape I'm not out of shape, and I certainly don't feel breathless often.

Talking with Lee, it got worse. It wasn't like I was fighting for breath, it just felt like I couldn't finish my sentences.

I'm trying to focus on my conversation with Lee, but it's hard to finish sentences, to even think. I know something's wrong and getting worse, but what is it? I'm healthy, damn it!

There's a part of me wondering if I drank too much coffee that morning; 2 cups instead of 1. No, that can't be right. What else could it be?

Something is wrong.


Work the problem Nik.

Feeling the prickling of sweat prior to blackout, the kind you feel when you stand up suddenly after laying down for a while. On the highway, rolling at 70 miles an hour.

Something is seriously wrong.  Think, Nik, THINK!

I needed time. To think. The world. started. to. close. in.

Breathing shallow, like when you turn the O2 off on a Draeger, shallow puffs, darkness closing in, you CAN NOT pass out on the highway. NIK, THINK MAN!

Stop trying to talk with Lee and figure out your life, NOW.

This is getting worse, not better. You've got less than 30 seconds and you don't know it. What the fuck!? Be cool. What the fuck is going on!!?

Calm, work the problem.


Draeger, shallow breathing, O2....

CO2! It's the CO2, it's the 100 lbs of dry ice sublimating in the back. You idiot! Just as the first heavy wave of nausea and faintness hits and my head bobs I get the windows down.

Air rushes in and I raise my head. That's it! Just hold on, bubba!

Now I'm focused. I know what the problem is, I can solve it, just have to hang on.


Deep breaths out the window, hand out focusing the air into my face & mouth.

Breathe deep the air, my friend.

Today, you live.

The nausea passes, the faintness fades. No horns honking, no cars swerving, nobody even noticed. I tell Lee what happened.

She (rightly) thinks I'm an idiot. I'm no longer breathless.

Off at the exit, windows still down. What the heck? Did that really just happen? Was I really that stupid? I've driven with dry ice in the car before with the windows up, why this time?

Lessons learned:

  • Don't be an idiot with dry ice, make sure you have enough air to breathe. Sheesh.
  • Dry ice sublimates MUCH faster when it's single wrapped; this was a new place to buy from, the old place double wrapped it and taped it.
  • You don't always get to choose when you have the rest of your life to figure out a problem. Learn to stay cool even when you're freaking out.
  • Don't ignore small problems. They can get big so fast you won't have time to solve them.
  • The deadliest danger can be where you least expect it. Picking up dry ice for your business can be just as lethal as running around Syria waving a US flag if you're not paying attention. Death doesn't care where she finds you.
  • Be thankful that you live, and remember you've only got one chance sometimes. Remember to enjoy the warmth of the sun, the coolness of morning mist as you walk the dogs, a kiss from your wife, the breaks that do go your way.

All's well that ends well, thought you would dig my brush with death via the cookie business. Stay safe out there!

Big heart,


We are PSYCHED to help you learn how to ship your perishable product across the country.  A consultation with us can save you years of experimenting and thousands of dollars.  Reach out via our Contact form to learn more. 

Here's to your small food biz success!

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Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

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