How does our body temperature stay the same (if we’re not sick) even if we are in an especially warm or cold place? And when we are sick why does the temperature rising a couple degrees up or down make such a difference?

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How does our body temperature stay the same (if we’re not sick) even if we are in an especially warm or cold place? And when we are sick why does the temperature rising a couple degrees up or down make such a difference?

In: Biology
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Our bodies go through a lot of trouble — a *lot* — to ensure our internal temperature stays as close to 98.6 F as possible. Our blood vessels change shape, we start to sweat, we even sacrifice our hands and feet to keep blood close to our core if things get bad.

> And when we are sick why does the temperature rising a couple degrees up or down make such a difference?

Chemistry is delicate, especially the chemistry of life. One, two, three degrees doesn’t sound like a lot — our conscious minds can’t even tell the difference — but on the scale of molecules, they’re miles apart.

The body has ways of regulating temperature.

If it’s cold, the body restricts blood flow to arms and legs where there’s a lot of surface area for heat to escape. It can ramp up metabolism in order to just produce more internal heat. Shivering is your body spasming your muscles to generate heat.

The primary way of cooling down is sweating. When sweat evaporates from your body, it takes a bit of heat with it.

The reason we maintain the temperature is because the things our cells do keep us alive work best at this temperature. But, bacteria the get us sick also work best at this temperature. So changing the temperature can weaken the bacteria for immune system to kill. But this also messes with our own bodies which is why a fever feels so bad.

Your blood coagulates at about 40C, healthy is 36.6 or 37 which is it’s optimal function temperature so that is why those few degrees are such a big deal.

Think of your brain as the thermostat, and your blood as the hot water running through the radiators.

When your body is cold, the brain will redirect the hot blood to the critical areas (head, chest, stomach). And reduce flow to the legs and arms. This keeps you alive, and it”s why your hands are cold long before your chest.

When you’re too warm, it’ll do the opposite. It will reduce heating in the critical areas, and increase blood flow to the limbs. This, combined with sweating, helps cool down your blood and maintain your temperature.

When you have a fever, that’s your body turning up the thermostat by a few degrees. Suddenly 39C becomes “normal” body temperature. This does affect your body significantly (people with a fever usually feel pretty horrible, and a high enough fever is life-threatening), but the goal is to help the immune system fight an infection. In the case of a fever, the body is essentially betting that the immune system can clear the infection before the fever becomes dangerous.