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Backpacker Magazine – March 2011

Frostbite IQ

Test your skills--and possibly save some fingers--with this first-aid quiz.

by: Kristin Bjornen

Learn the basics of frostbite by taking this quiz. (PJ Loughran)
Learn the basics of frostbite by taking this quiz. (PJ Loughran)

Check out the answer key below in red to see how you did.


1. Frostbite has two stages: freeze and thaw. Which one causes more damage?
A) Freezing         B) Thawing

2. Why, by in large, are your toes, fingers, ears, and nose the most susceptible to frostbite?
A) They have less fat.
B) When the body chills, it constricts blood flow to the extremities to keep your all-important core warm.
C) The skin is thinner on the extremities.

3. True or false In normal conditions, frostbite can’t occur if the ambient temperature is above freezing, no matter how cold the wind chill.

4. Which factor predisposes you to frostbite?
A) Dehydration                    B) Hunger
C) Fatigue                        D) All of the above

5. True or false
You should rub frostbitten skin to rewarm it.

6. Match the conditions with their symptoms.
I) Frostnip
II) Partial-thickness frostbite
III) Full-thickness (deep)
frostbite

A) Area is pale white, icy cold to the touch, and feels wooden
B) Skin is white/yellowish, waxy, numb, and cold to the touch, but still soft.
C) Skin is white, waxy, numb, cold, and hard. If you poke it, the dent stays for several seconds.

7. Short answer: How do you treat frostnip?

8. On a minus 5°F day with 35-mph winds, exposed skin can get frostbitten in...
A) 30 minutes    B) 10 minutes    C) 5 minutes

9. The best way to treat frostbite is by soaking it in 99°F to 102°F water (if you dip in your elbow, the water should feel warm, not hot) until the area thaws (15 to 30 minutes). Which of the following additional actions DOES NOT help with healing?
A) Gently swirling the water to lift away dead cells
B) Taking ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain and decrease damage done during thawing
C) Applying aloe to the skin, which is anti-inflammatory and soothing
D) Placing the skin near a warm, radiant source like a fire, stove, or radiator

9. The best way to treat frostbite is by soaking it in 99°F to 102°F water (if you dip in your elbow, the water should feel warm, not hot) until the area thaws (15 to 30 minutes). Which of the following additional actions DOES NOT help with healing?
A) Gently swirling the water to lift away dead cells
B) Taking ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain and decrease damage done during thawing
C) Applying aloe to the skin, which is anti-inflammatory and soothing
D) Placing the skin near a warm, radiant source like a fire, stove, or radiator

10. You’re in the backcountry with frostbitten fingers. Should you rewarm them?
A) Yes, the sooner, the better.
B) Yes, but only if there is absolutely no chance of them refreezing.
C) No, wait until you get home and can see a doctor for expert care.

11. True or false Tissue that was once frostbitten is more susceptible to future frostbite.

12. After Reinhold Messner’s harrowing descent off the Himalayas’ Nanga Parbat in 1970 (a first-traverse epic that claimed his brother Günther’s life), how many of his frostbitten toes were amputated, thus forever hampering his rock climbing?
A) None—he’s invincible!       B) 4      C) 6      D) All 10

13. Fill in the blank The medical term for frostbite’s black, dry tissue is ______ and the area always/maybe/never requires amputation.

16. You’re in the boonies (no rescue) with frostbitten feet. You have warm water for thawing and are sure you can prevent refreezing. Do you rewarm them?
A) Yes, asap
B) No, hike out (but don’t overexert); thaw in town.

17. Which two WON’T help prevent frostbite?
A) Using mittens instead of gloves, and wearing a hat (since the head vents a lot of heat)
B) Wearing wicking socks to keep feet dry
C) Dabbing cold-protective salves on your face
D) Making sure boots aren’t too tight, which constricts blood flow
E) Sipping whiskey to “flush” skin with blood
F) Wiggling toes and swinging arms

Answer Key 1. B. Thawing cells release inflammatory substances that cause blood clots, reduce blood flow, and further harm the tissue. 2. B 3. True. Caveat: Touching freezing metal (or wind chill on alcohol- or gasoline-wet skin) can drop skin temp below ambient temp. 4. D. Your body needs calories, water, and energy to maintain its temperature. 5. False. Ice crystals form between cells, so rubbing the skin is like running a microscopic cheese grater over them. 6. I) B II) C III) A 7. Skin-to-skin contact (don’t rub) or warm water quickly returns it to normal. 8. B 9. D. It can burn frostbitten skin 10. B, then see a doc. 11. True 12. C
13. Mummification; maybe. It takes six-plus weeks to see which tissues are dead, hence the saying, “Frostbite in January, amputate in July.” 16. B. Thawed, swollen, tender feet can prevent hiking out; and overexertion may thaw feet while walking. 17. C, E






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