I thought goose bumps were my skin’s attempt to get tighter, to cinch in and keep me warm. But that’s not quite right. Getting goose bumps is something the body does to keep warm, but what it’s doing and why is funny. And useless.
When we’re cold, our body makes our hairs stand on end, to create an insulating layer on the skin. Just like a good down coat… what a great idea. The only problem with this is that we have so little hair that this doesn’t actually warm us up; it’s just a vestigial reaction from our salad days when we were much hairier. Since the hairs standing upright make our skin pucker, the end result is just general, unflattering-yet-cute bumpiness.
We have little muscles called erectores pilorum [*snicker*] that contract to pull our hairs up like that. It’s the same mechanism that makes a cat’s hair stand on end, and raises a porcupine’s quills when threatened.
The Wikipedia entry on goose bumps currently says: “[goose bumps] are the bumps …which involuntarily develop when a person is cold or experiences strong emotions such as fear, awe, or the need to defecate.” Hahahaha, don’t you just love that… strong emotion of the need to defecate…
I got on this subject because Ian asked me a little while ago how it is that we stay warm… specifically, what part of the body does that? And I don’t know the answer to this question.
If anyone reading knows the answers to any of these questions, please share!
- Where does the heat in our bodies come from?
- How does the body “know” whether it’s too hot or too cold? What part of the body determines this?
- What determines the optimal temperature for an animal? Why is ours somewhere in the range of the high 90s Fahrenheit?
I think I figured out why my face used to tingle when I swam.
When I started swimming laps regularly a few months ago, my face always tingled all over and was slightly numb when I got out of the pool. I guess I hadn’t noticed that I ever stopped feeling tingly after swimming, because today, after my mile swim with Brent, I noticed it again for the first time in a long while.
The other thing that struck me while swimming today is that I was having great trouble getting as much air as I wanted into my lungs. I think I’ve become much more aware of breathing since I started swimming, and today I knew it didn’t feel right. I suppose there are many reasons I could’ve had trouble breathing today: I haven’t exercised much in the last two weeks, I haven’t slept much, and I recently had a spike in pizza intake… all possibilities.
Regardless of the reason for my trouble breathing today, I’m fairly convinced that the correlation of trouble breathing and tingly face means that the tingling comes from a lack of sufficient oxygen for an extended period.