Monday, November 07, 2005

58. Snot

At what temperature does mucous freeze?

Here's a rather long answer, courtesy of

QUESTION: Does mucus or a person's tears freeze in the harsh Antarctica Climate?

ANSWER from Elizabeth Felton on January 16, 1995
I never had any tears freeze. Sometimes my eyes would water but I always had my goggles on so my face was relatively warm. I suppose they might freeze if they were exposed to the air for too long. I would feel my nose hairs, and I suppose mucus, freeze almost immediately when I would go outside. I could still breathe, it would just be a little harder and it wasn't painful at all. It would thaw when I went inside. You may have seen pictures of men with beards in the Antarctic. You probably noticed that they have ice and frost all over their beards. This is what happens to your nose hairs, but on a smaller scale. When I was outside for too long, the hair on my head would begin to freeze. It was pretty funny, it looked like I was going gray!

ANSWER from Ann Stevens on February 14, 1995:
A person's tears and mucus from their nose does freeze in the harsh Antarctic climate. Sometimes, at places such as the South Pole or Polar plateau, it takes only seconds. The eye lashes may become frozen and sometimes it will even freeze the eye lids together making it painful and difficult to open your eyes. The secretions around the nose may
also freeze causing pain around the openings of the nose. In one case, someone had secretions drip from his nose onto his chin causing frostbite on a small area of the chin when it froze and was not wiped off. The best way to thaw out would be to go into a warm building. If that is not available, a shelter of snow or a tent is another way to thaw


Notice that your question isn't actually answered here, but the picture is that at arctic tempertures, it can happen PDQ.
I don't know the answer to this question, but I remember that a colleague who worked for a while in Harbin (Manchuria) said that she had to remember to walk and not run to class, because if you breathed in too fast, the inside of your nose froze.
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