Why We Get Goosebumps When Cold or Afraid
Goose bumps are the tiny little bumps that appear on your arms, legs, neck, back, or any other area of your body where you grow hair. You will notice that the hair will rise where ever one of the tiny bumps is located. Each small bump is formed to raise the hair it is connected to. This process occurs to make you appear larger than you actually are. First termed as goose flesh because the condition generally resembles the pimply skin of a plucked goose these protrusions have become familiarly known as goosebumps.
They are the body's fight or flight response to danger. The process of developing goosebumps begins when you experience a sensation of fear or cold. It is then that your body kicks into action to help you out of your current situation.
The sympathetic nervous system sends a message down your spine and from there into your arms, legs, and other extremities as a call for your body to react. This message in essence tells the muscles within your hair follicles to contract. As these muscles contract the hair follicles rise above the skin forcing the hair to become erect. This action then displays itself as a case of goosebumps.
In fur covered animals this system works very well and can also be very obvious when it occurs. A cat or porcupine displays a very dramatic case of the goosebumps when they are frightened. It can be a pretty scary site which is exactly what it is intended to be.
So how do goose bumps fit in with a chill in the air around us? Well there is a little bit of science involved in that answer. Although goosebumps won't help most of us humans out when we get cold this reflex action will help to warm those creatures with thicker hair, fur, or feathers. When the follicles rise to an erect position they lock warm air from the body between them and this increases the body's ability to maintain its warmth.
This is why many animals appear to puff or fluff themselves up in the cold. It is a natural defence mechanism to protect against the chill.
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