The Fever Under The Surface

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Luke Grassi(Photo: Provided photo)

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QUESTION: Why do some things feel hot and others cold?

ANSWER: There are a number of ways that we feel heat and cold in our body.

Our deep body temperature is set around 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), but it can vary up to 102 degrees F (with exercise) or down to 96 degrees F (while sleeping at night) without endangering our life. Above or below these temperatures may be dangerous. Under these conditions, we will feel that our body is either too warm or too cold, but our body can lower its temperature by sweating or raise its temperature by shivering. These ways of regulating our temperature will be done automatically by the body. 

With a fever that often occurs with an infection, body temperature will rise during rest and normal room temperature, and the skin will appear flushed and red. This happens when blood is moved to the surface of the body beneath the skin. Under these conditions, the skin will feel warm both to the person with the fever and to the caregiver feeling the skin.

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Our feelings of hot or cold are produced by what are called thermoreceptors, which are nerve cells found in the skin that can detect differences in temperature. When the skin is at a normal temperature (usually cooler than the deep body temperature), the cold receptors and heat receptors are less active. When either cool or warm air or objects touch the skin, the cold or heat receptors become more active, and we feel the temperature changes. 

There are also thermoreceptors in the lower part of the brain to sense when the deep body temperature is high or low. If a person is ill and someone feels their forehead to see if she or he has a fever, the result may be misleading if the hands of the person feeling the ill person’s forehead are very warm or very cold. If the hands are warm, then the fever may not be detected; if the hands are cold, then the forehead temperature may seem exaggerated.

When we feel different objects at room temperatures, we may get different temperature sensations. For example, if we feel a hot cup of cocoa in a Styrofoam cup, it will feel comfortable to hold, because Styrofoam is a good insulator and does not conduct heat well. On the other hand, if we have an iced drink in a tin cup, it will feel very cold because the tin cup does not insulate well and conducts the cold quite effectively. If we switched the hot cocoa and the iced drink to a tin cup and a Styrofoam cup, the tin cup would feel very hot and, again, the Styrofoam cup would not be cold, but be comfortable to hold. 

In many ways, temperature (hot and cold) are relative, depending on the objects and condition that we are experiencing.

Meet the student

Name: Luke Grassi.

Grade: Sixth.

School: St. John the Evangelist.

Teacher: Anu Rai.

Hobbies: Sports.

Meet the scientist

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Dr. Michael Little (Photo: Provided photo)

Answered by: Michael Little.

Title: Distinguished professor of anthropology, Binghamton University.

Research area: Human adaptation to the environment.

Interests/hobbies: Swimming, choral singing, antique toys, books.

Ask a Scientist runs on Mondays in print. Questions are answered by science experts at Binghamton University. Teachers in the Greater Binghamton area who wish to participate in the program are asked to write to Ask a Scientist, c/o Binghamton University, Office of Communications and Marketing, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000, or e-mail [email protected]. For more information, visit binghamton.edu/mpr/ask-a-scientist/.

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Source : https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2018/11/19/ask-scientist-how-and-why-hot-and-cold/1993033002/

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