Cold: what happens in the body when we are cold

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What happens in the body when we are cold

Whether outside or inside – we freeze at low temperatures.

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Outside temperatures are falling, but many apartments and offices are also getting colder this year due to the energy crisis in order to save gas. What happens in our body when we are (too) cold.

Because of the energy crisis, many employers have decided to lower the room temperature in the office – to 19 degrees. But if you sit at your desk all day, you will quickly notice that your feet and hands in particular get cold pretty quickly. But what actually happens in the body when we freeze?

The World Health Organization has stated in a report that low indoor temperatures increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. She therefore recommends a lower limit of 18 degrees indoors. A study from 2019 even came to the conclusion that a low room temperature has a negative impact on productivity and performance – at least for women.

When it’s cold, our body counteracts this in order to maintain the temperature

If we are too cold – whether in the office or in frosty outside temperatures, we start to freeze. As warm-blooded animals, we need a constant body temperature for our metabolism to function and vital organs to keep running. Our core body temperature is around 37 degrees – and our body does everything it can to keep it that way. After all, too low a body temperature can ultimately lead to death.

We already speak of hypothermia when our core body temperature falls below 35 degrees. Our body naturally wants to avoid this condition and initiates measures to keep heat loss as low as possible.

Constricted blood vessels, goosebumps and trembling

First, the blood vessels narrow. This has the effect that less heat travels with the blood to the skin’s surface. We first notice this effect on our hands and feet – our body uses this mechanism to protect our brain and internal organs from the cold. And we get goosebumps when the cold persists. Our body hair stands up: The body activates the muscles in the hair follicle to build up an insulating cushion of air against the cold. In the case of our much more hairy ancestors, this was probably far better at warming the body.

If it gets any colder, we start to tremble. Our muscles contract and relax. This movement generates heat.

If you don’t want to freeze in the cooler apartment or office at all, you should keep moving in between – that’s how we turn on our muscle heating. The well-known onion look also warms us through the insulating layers of air between the garments.

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Sources: WHO, study Plos One,BR

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