Curiosities: Why does your body shiver when you are cold?

December 5, 2016

By Eddy Montilla.


I could not use my bicycle last night because of the rain, so I decided to go home by bus. While waiting at the bus stop, I noticed two things about a girl who was in front of me: One, she was wearing a miniskirt despite a temperature between three and four degrees. Second, she was shivering.

“Social conventions and male chauvinism dictate cruel rules sometimes”, I thought. “If you are a young girl, people expect you to show your legs even in winter and to extend the length of your skirt some centimeters as you are getting old until the day comes when you cannot even see your feet.” Then my thoughts went back to the second observation: Why does the body shiver when we are cold?

On very cold moments, your body temperature drops from its normal parameters (between 36°C and 37°C) to lower values that can lead to hypothermia, a dangerous condition because of a long exposure to cold. After moving or running for a while, you take your coat off, right? And you do that because friction and movements produce heat. Sometimes, we do not remember this fact, but our body does, and that’s why it shivers: As an attempt to protect you by raising the body temperature.

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