Monday, December 5, 2022

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Change the perception of cold with small tricks

Wool sweater, socks, blanket – and are you still shaking? With a little knowledge of the body and with small changes it becomes more comfortable.

Where one feels really comfortable, the other prefers to wear a thick sweater. “There are very large individual differences in sensitivity to cold,” says Ralf Brandes, professor of physiology at Goethe University in

Frankfurt am Main. It represents a field of medicine that deals with the normal functions of the body.

Yes, these tricks exist. And they have to do with thermoreceptors in the body, which ensure that we feel heat and cold. They generate nerve impulses depending on the temperature. This is how they tell our brain whether what surrounds us – or something we touch – is cold or hot. Thermoreceptors are not only found in the skin, but also in our body. And you can take advantage of it.

“If you drink something hot, it doesn’t mean your whole body gets warm,” says Brandes, who is also the general secretary of the German Physiology Society. “But only the heat receptors in the stomach are addressed, irritate our brain and trigger a reaction.” This gives us the feeling that our body is hot. But in reality we only have warm liquid in our stomach.

The same principle applies when you smear yourself with warm ointment or eat a spicy curry. Because the heat receptors also react to chili and chili. As a result, they report heat, even if the body’s core temperature hasn’t really changed.

Sometimes it is our environment that causes differences in our perception of temperature. “Anything that makes us lose more heat makes us freeze faster,” says Brandes.

An example of this is the drafts. In a windless environment, a layer of heat forms around the body. If the wind picks up, the hot air around your body blows away, to put it bluntly. We freeze faster. This phenomenon is also known as the wind chill effect.

At least at home you can try to curb this effect. For example, you can seal a leaky window through which a barely perceptible stream of air cools the skin. The non-profit consultancy “co2online” recommends, for example, filling the gaps between the window and the frame with foam sealing tape or a rubber gasket.

Front doors often let cold air through. A doorstop, like a fabric snake, is one solution. But it has to be put back and forth again and again. A rubber lip to stick to the bottom of the door, or the so-called enemy of the cold, are more practical alternatives.

Sometimes it can be useful to sit somewhere else in the room: according to the Federal Environment Agency, a person feels more comfortable the closer their body temperature is to the temperature of the room surfaces around them. You feel it in winter, for example, when you sit by a cold window: you immediately feel more uncomfortable here than in the rest of the heated room.

Yes, you can train your sensitivity to cold. A tip that is often read in this context: take a cold shower. “It sure makes you harder and also has various positive effects on your health,” says Brandes. However, it has not been studied whether short cold showers reduce long-term perception of cold.

The body can only get used to the cold if it is regularly exposed to it. But there are limits. “When the temperature in the body’s core drops, we inevitably have to freeze in order not to freeze to death,” says Ralf Brandes. This manifests itself, for example, in the form of muscle tremors, which cause the body to produce heat.

It is therefore also important to keep the heat loss of the body within limits. And a hat helps a lot. Why: The average brain temperature is 38.5 degrees, slightly higher than the average body temperature. A hat is quick to put on and ensures that we lose less heat through the head.

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