What Is Gooseflesh?
If you’ve noticed, we develop tiny bumps on our skin when we feel cold. These tiny bumps are called gooseflesh. Why does goose flesh appear on our skin? The reason for the appearance of the goose flesh is a secret that lies in the hair of the skin.
To understand this better, let’s first learn a little about the human skin. The skin is the largest and the most versatile organ in the human body. It is also the heaviest organ, weighing around seven pounds. The skin consists of two layers. The outer layer is called the epidermis and a layer called dermis lies underneath it. Sweat glands are situated in the dermis. There are nearly two to three million sweat glands in the human body. They are tiny coiled tubes that open out into the surface of the skin.
The skin has several functions to perform. It regulates the body temperature and protects underlying tissue from injury and infection. The skin can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to light. This is a minor function and its mechanism is not yet fully understood. The skin produces new cells continually and when the new cells appear, the old ones wear away from the skin.
The human body is continuously kept in a stable condition mainly through the function of the autonomic nervous system and the body’s hormones. The medical term for this is maintaining “homeostasis”. Whatever the climatic conditions, this keeps the body at a constant temperature of about 37°C.
In cold weather, the body needs extra heat and it generates as much heat as necessary by causing muscles to contract into spasms, which are better known as shivers. That is why human beings maintain the same body temperature irrespective of the air temperature outside. In fact, most animals and birds too maintain their body temperature. These animals are said to be warm blooded. A few creatures, such as lizards and snakes, however, lose body heat when the air is cold and they go to sleep till it gets warm again.
When it is cold, our hair stands up straight. The skin around each hair swells and closes the pore so tightly so that the heat inside the body cannot escape. When the body is cold, a tiny muscle at the base of each hair contracts, making the hair stand on end, producing gooseflesh. In ancient times, when people had too much hair on their bodies, they would fluff it up to keep their bodies warm. Today, people do not have so much hair, but the skin pores around the strands contract and cause gooseflesh to happen.
Well, what happens when the body is too hot? The sweat glands secrete sweat, a mixture of water and waste products. As the sweat evaporates from the skin’s surface, it uses heat from the body, thus causing it cool down.