Fact or Fiction: Frostbite

Staff

When you have frostbite, ice crystals form in your skin cells.

Your skin does freeze when you have frostbite, so yes, that means ice crystals are forming in your skin cells.

The first stage of frostbite is called frostnip.

Frostnip it is. Your skin will be irritated but not permanently damaged.

One of the first signs of frostbite is a white outline around your mouth.

Tingling in the extremities is one of your first danger signs.

If you're feeling tingling in your extremities, your skin is also probably starting to lose its pigmentation.

Your skin will turn red first.

After your skin becomes red, it will start turning white.

That's right -- after your skin becomes red, it will start turning white.

If you're still out in the elements after your skin turns white, you'll notice that your fingernails are turning yellow.

Neither fingernail scenario is correct. If your skin has turned white, it will soon start becoming hard and waxy.

You should never try to warm frostbitten skin by putting it in hot water.

Plunging your damaged skin into hot water would cause even more harm. The best method is to use a bath of water that's 100 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you're unable to get to shelter, the best thing you can do is start rubbing your skin as vigorously as possible.

Nope, rubbing of any type will also cause even more damage.

If you can, try to put gauze or cloth between your fingers and toes to prevent them from sticking together.

Any kind of clean material you can put between your digits will help.

Whatever you do, don't remove any of your clothes, even if they're wet.

Maintaining blood flow is of utmost importance, so even if it seems wrong to take off clothing when you're freezing, just do it.

Even if you think there's a chance of your skin refreezing, you should try to thaw it out.

You'll cause even more damage if you thaw out and then refreeze, so resist the temptation if there's any chance it might not last.

Severe frostbite can penetrate all the way through to the bone.

Yes -- in the most severe frostbite cases, the damage goes all the way to the bone.

If you have severe frostbite and are able to warm your skin, it will form a blister that will turn black and harden into a shell.

This certainly sounds severe, but it's actually what happens with superficial frostbite. If the damage isn't too bad, the shell eventually falls off to reveal new skin underneath.

The blister will show up immediately after you rewarm your skin.

That lovely fluid-filled blister will most likely appear 24 to 36 hours after you've warmed up.

Frostbite occurs most often in young children and the elderly.

The young and elderly are probably most vulnerable to frostbite, but most cases occur in people aged 30 to 49, just because they're the ones who are most out in the elements.

Gloves offer more protection against frostbite than mittens do.

Mittens are better because your fingers aren't separated and can warm each other.

Smoking increases the risk for frostbite because it decreases lung capacity.

Smokers are more at risk for frostbite, but it's because smoking constricts blood vessels.

You can get a fever from frostbite.

It sounds strange that your body temperature could rise when your skin is freezing, but a fever is a sign of severe frostbite.

One case of frostbite increases your risk of developing it again.

If you've ever had frostbite, you're now more vulnerable to another case.

A man who lost both legs to frostbite climbed K2 in 2006.

Mark Inglis had both legs amputated below the knee after being stranded on New Zealand's Mount Cook in 1982. Twenty-four years later, he climbed Everest.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

The word 'frostbite' probably brings to mind images of Himalayan mountain climbers with icy beards and blackened fingertips. This quiz will help you recognize the symptoms and give you some tips on what to do if you're ever stricken with frostbite.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!