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Here is what happens to your body during winter!

Here is what happens to your body during winter!

Wondering why shivering, goose bumps and numbness occur during the winter season? Because without them you could die!

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Updated : November 30, 2015 6:31 PM IST

Ever wondered how our body copes with the cold and till what temperature can we handle it? In this post, we discuss all that and more. India is a tropical country and we Indians are not at all meant to live in extreme temperatures. Throughout the year, our body is acclimatised to handle 28-30 degrees of external temperature but during winters as the temperature starts dipping, we all begin to notice a similar body response to cold. Here are 10 winter mistakes that you should avoid doing this winter.

Largely, this response is triggered by a small gland in the brain called hypothalamus, responsible for regulating body temperature. But the thermoregulation mechanism may be switched on at different temperatures in different people, depending on age, body fat and fitness level. Therefore, there's a range in which the body may function normally without switching on the heat conserving mechanism. Did you know, sudden changes in body temperature could also lead to death?

28-30 degrees: The normal temperature of the core organs in your body (kidney, lungs, liver and heart) is 37 degrees. At this temperature, the body does not have to spend energy to keep you warm. It's only when the body's core temperature drops below 37, it has to switch on its heat and energy preservation mechanism. Therefore, between 28-30 degrees of surrounding temperature, you can easily survive.

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25 degrees: Hypothermia studies suggest that a person (without clothes) starts feeling cold when the external temperature drops around 25 degrees. At this point, the body will start shivering to generate some internal heat and maintain the core temperature. The hypothalamus in the brain activates the thermoregulation mechanism. As a result, the vessels supplying blood to the extremities (hands and feet) begin to constrict to prevent heat loss from the core organs.

Below 20 degrees: When the surrounding temperature is 20 degrees and below, all other body responses set in.

  • Your abdominal muscles involuntary contract: Muscle contraction is one of the best ways of the body to produce heat. Extreme cold can cause shivering to an extent that it can raise heat generation up to five times.
  • Your metabolism slows down: All chemical reactions that take place in your body need energy. At colder temperatures, the body has to spend more energy in saving heat. So, it has to slow down metabolism to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure. But at this point, if you consume heat-generating foods and drink hot liquids, it helps your body regulate internal temperature. Here are six foods that can help you boost your metabolism.
  • Your urine output increases: When your body is exposed to cold, due to constriction of blood vessels, the blood pressure increases. In order to restore the pressure, the body gets rid of water through urination to restore the fluid volume. So, it's natural to visit the restroom several times a day during winter. Here are six other reasons of frequent urination that you need to know.
  • Body function impairment: When the surrounding temperature drops at around 10 degrees, the effects can be clearly seen in physical and behavioural responses. 13 degrees is the maximum threshold for performing physical tasks at ease. At 12 degrees, you may become clumsy and may not be able to perform complex physical tasks. Confusion, poor judgement, lack of coordination, slurred speech may also develop because of the effects of cold on the nervous system.

Below 10 degrees: At 8 degrees surrounding temperature, you'll lose your touch sensitivity completely. Your limbs will become numb, while all other body responses are also driven simultaneously. At this point, if you don't make effort to produce and preserve internal heat, the core temperature can drop severely. If the core temperature hits 32 degrees, your body will have no energy left to produce heat, resulting in further drop of body temperature. If it reaches 28 degrees, your heartbeat will slow down, you may lose consciousness. At 20 degrees core temperature, your heart will stop beating.

Surprisingly, our reaction to cold can protect us from hypothermia in a better way than our body does. So, even when surrounding temperature goes below zero degrees, we can survive with right kind of shelter, right kind of clothing, right kind heat-generating liquids and foods. If you're prone to fall sick during winter, here are 6 expert tips to avoid falling winter illnesses!

Image source: Getty images

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  • Manfred Kaiser. How the Weather Affects Your Health: Easy read Large Bold Edition;, 2008; p 312

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