Why does the Tongue get Stuck to Cold Metal in the Winter

We have all tried it, whether we will admit to it or not.  It may have been a dare.  It may have not been voluntarily.  However, we have all pulled the old tongue sticking to metal trick.  For some of us, it may have been to an old metal ice tray in our freezer.  For others, it may have been the good ole flag pole in the dead of winter.  It was always a mystery as a child.  Just what does make the tongue stick to the cold metal in the winter?   Also, how does someone get the tongue loose, safely, once stuck to the metal?  This is a really important aspect of the question.

This question will get answered in many ways.  It will get answered scientifically(correctly) and non-scientifically(goofy).  Some of the non-scientific reasons are that kids can’t resist doing something stupid when dared.  Thus, something stupid usually results.  No, not scientific at all.  Another one is that saliva freezes instantly.  If it did, then everyone would walk around all winter long with a mouthful of ice.  Seriously?  I don’t think this explanation is even plausable in Alaska. Another misconception is that if anything warm touches anything cold, then they will stick together.  This is just not true either.

Now that we have explored the non-scientific explanations, let’s explore the scientific ones.  The most plausable explanation is given by Professor of Physical Science, Frank J. DiSalvo.  This graduate of Stanford University is well qualified to answer this question.  His answer is that first the temperature of the metal must be at or below 32 degrees.  The colder the metal, the faster your tongue will stick.  This can also happen if your hand is moist or sweaty, it can stick too.  There must be that moisture and cold temperature both present for this to work too.  The metal has a high thermal conductivity, according to DiSalvo.  It won’t work with plastic and rubber because they both have low thermal condcorbekkuctivity levels.

Now, for the eternally inquisitive who will still get stuck to something metal (even after warnings).  How do you get your tongue loose?  First, try taking a couple deep breaths and blowing the warm air over your tongue.  If that don’t work, try cupping your hands around to keep more of the warm air on your tongue.  You can also try pouring warm water over the tongue.  If all else fails, try wiggling the tongue to and fro(this will hurt and is not advised).  Do this only as last resort because it can damage your tongue.  Moral of the story, keep your tongue in your mouth where it belongs.  Don’t lick cold metal (not even on a dare).  This should keep you from getting a damaged tongue and a really embarrassing E.R. visit.