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Author Topic: Why does warm water feel scalding to cold hands?  (Read 5575 times)

Joshua Speelman

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Why does warm water feel scalding to cold hands?
« on: 15/03/2011 18:00:49 »
Joshua Speelman  asked the Naked Scientists:

   

I live in Michigan in the USA and since I've had to shovel a lot of snow over the last week a question came to mind.  What is going on physiologically when I put my freezing cold hands under barely warm water but it feels near scalding to me?



Thanks and keep up the great podcast.





Joshua Speelman



What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/03/2011 18:00:49 by _system »


 

Offline Supercryptid

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Why does warm water feel scalding to cold hands?
« Reply #1 on: 01/03/2011 16:49:21 »
If I recall correctly, there was an explanation in a textbook I once had. It said that we have nerves to detect "cold" and nerves to detect "warm". In order to sense "hot", both nerve types need to be stimulated at once. So if the cold nerves are stimulated (by having cold hands) then stimulating the warm nerves with warm water will produce the sensation of hot.
 

Offline JMLCarter

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Why does warm water feel scalding to cold hands?
« Reply #2 on: 10/04/2011 23:32:48 »
Your body does not sense absolute temperature, rather the temperature gradient through the skin, which is related to the rate of heat loss (since inside you are at 37.5C).
It's also true that pain sensors kick in on an extreme temperature gradient - to indicate you may be doing damage.
 

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Why does warm water feel scalding to cold hands?
« Reply #2 on: 10/04/2011 23:32:48 »

 

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