Eli5: If our body normal temperature was higher, would cold temperatures feel colder, or would we feel warmer instead?


Eli5: If our body normal temperature was higher, would cold temperatures feel colder, or would we feel warmer instead?

In: 7

Cold temperatures would indeed feel colder. This can be tested easily, really: from in front of an actual heater (or preferably, a campfire) walk away, and notice how the cold air suddenly feels colder.

This is because the feeling of “cold” is actually the feeling of your body losing heat to the environment (usually cold air, but really everything you’re in contact with that is colder than you). The greater the difference, the faster that heat transfer happens (slowing down as the difference gets smaller), and as such, you would feel a colder cold at the same temperatures.

Now, that only applies if your exposed skin is also warmer. Cold does not affect core temperature as fast, since you have to lose more heat before your core temperature has to heat up its surrounding tissues.

If we take just try and answer the meat of your question without trying to warm up a human 🙂

If we increase the difference between our body temperature and the environment would we feel colder? Sound about right?

We do this when we leave a warm environment and enter a cold one. Not by increasing our temperature but lowering the environment.

Imagine a cool Fall day say it is in the upper 60s (16-20 C,) when we exit the warmer environment we feel cold.

I suspect since we can do what you ask but the net change is similar as I described, we would feel colder.

Cold is not really a thing, it is a lack of heat that we feel. The greater the difference between a heat source (us) and a heat sink (something that has capacity to absorb heat,) in this case the environment the more we feel “cold.”

When you pass by a window and it feels cold, you are actually feeling heat being lost by your body and not cold coming in to the house. Even though we think of it as such.

Speaking as someone who’s body temperature is usually higher than normal.

Usually, I don’t feel the cold as much as others, and often wear shorts and a tshirt while others are wearing jackets and such.

My wife and kids use me as a hot water bottle in winter.

That’s what happens usually. Sometimes, usually when I’ve physically exerted myself without watching my calorie intake, but sometimes stress can trigger it, my body seems to be unable to keep it’s normal high temperature, and then it’s almost impossible for me to get warm unless I’m sitting in front of a heater or under an electric blanket, or unless it’s a relatively warm day / night. Checking my temperature shows it’s about normal for most people.

Flip side of this is that I perspire really badly almost all the time unless I’m in a heavily air conditioned environment.

as food for thought: how sure are you that my hot/cold feeling is the same as your hot/cold feeling when looking at the same temperature?