Why Do We Feel Hot in Temperatures Lower Than Our Body Temp?

iStock / AntonioGuillem
iStock / AntonioGuillem

Reader PartiallyDeflected wrote in to ask, “Since our body temperature is around 98 degrees, why do we feel hot when it’s 90?”

Pretty much everything your body does, whether physical (like muscle contractions) or chemical (like some stages of digestion), produces heat as a byproduct. You’re constantly generating it, and constantly losing it to the environment. The hypothalamus, an almond-sized chunk of the brain that rests deep within its squishy confines, acts as the body’s thermostat and tries to keep the amount of heat created and the amount lost close to each other and maintain normal body temperature.

Normally, this is easy enough. Heat seeks equilibrium, a state where everything is the same temperature as everything around it. It’s why a bowl of hot soup and a glass of ice water will both reach room temperature if you leave them out on the counter long enough. Usually, the environment around you is cooler than your body, so your little thermostat can just dump the excess heat into it with thermoregulatory processes like sweating (where the heat is lost by evaporation) and increasing bloodflow through capillaries close to the surface of the skin (where the heat is lost through radiation, convection and conduction).

When there’s a big temperature difference between your body and your environment, heat flows out of you and into the air pretty easily, and you cool down quickly. When the environment is warmer and closer to our body temperature, though, the heat doesn’t transfer as readily or quickly via radiation, convection, and conduction. You’re stuck hanging on to some of your excess heat for longer, and you feel hot and uncomfortable (and if the ambient temperature goes higher than your body temp, heat’s quest for equilibrium means that you’ll take on excess heat from the environment). If conditions are hot and dry, the body can deal with these situations by ramping up sweat to get rid of more heat through evaporation. When it’s hot and humid, though, you really feel hot and gross because the high moisture content of the air makes it more difficult for the sweat to evaporate.

If you spend enough time in a situation where the heat you generate or absorb from the environment exceeds the heat you’re getting rid of, your core temperature will rise and you can suffer from heat illnesses.

What Purpose Does the Belly Button Serve?

misuma/iStock via Getty Images
misuma/iStock via Getty Images

While your eyelashes are protecting your eyes, your lungs are letting you breathe, and virtually every other part of your body—inside and out—is performing its own relatively well-known task, your belly button is just sitting there collecting lint. And while it’s true that your navel served its most important purpose before you were born, it’s not totally useless now.

According to ZME Science, back when you were a fetus, your belly button was more of a belly portal: Your umbilical cord extended from it and connected you to the placenta on your mother’s uterine wall. That way, the placenta could channel nutrients and oxygen to you through the cord, and you could send back waste.

Your umbilical cord was cut when you were born, creating a tiny bulge that left behind some scar tissue after it healed. That scar tissue is your belly button, navel, or umbilicus. Though you may have heard that the shape of your belly button is a direct result of the scissor skills of the doctor who delivered you, that’s not true. Dr. Dan Polk, a neonatologist in the Chicago area, told the Chicago Tribune that a belly button's shape “has to do with how much baby skin leads onto the umbilical cord from the baby’s body. Less skin makes an innie; more skin makes an outie.” About 90 percent of people have innies.

Regardless of how your belly button looks, you probably don’t use it on a daily basis. However, if you’ve studied anatomy, medicine, or a related field, you might recognize it as the central point by which the abdomen is divided into the following quadrants: right upper, left upper, right lower, and left lower. Another way of classifying that area is into nine regions—including the hypochondriac, lumbar, iliac, epigastric, and hypogastric regions—with the umbilical region at the very center.

Abdominopelvic regions diagram
Blausen Medical, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Your belly button can also serve as the opening for laparoscopic surgery, which can save you from having a scar elsewhere on your abdomen.

The navel is a great central landmark outside of medicine, too. If you’ve taken yoga or Pilates classes, you may have heard it referred to as the center of balance or center of gravity. Because it sits right on top of your abdominal muscles, your belly button is an easy marker for your instructor to mention when they want you to access your core, which helps you balance.

And, of course, belly buttons are notorious for storing quite a bit of lint, which always seems to be blue (you can learn more about that here).

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

‘Water’ in Kansas City Woman’s Ear Turned Out to Be a Venomous Brown Recluse Spider

N-sky/iStock via Getty Images
N-sky/iStock via Getty Images

Susie Torres, a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, woke up on Tuesday morning with the distinct feeling that water was lodged in her left ear. She likened it to the swooshing sensation that can often happen after swimming, WDAF-TV reports.

Instead of waiting for the problem to resolve itself, Torres went to the doctor—a decision that might have saved her from some serious pain. The medical assistant was the first to realize something was alarmingly amiss, and immediately called for backup.

“She ran out and said ‘I’m going to get a couple more people,’” Torres told 41 Action News. “She then said, ‘I think you have an insect in there.’” For many people, the thought of having any live insect stuck in an ear would be enough to cue a small- or large-scale freak-out, but Torres stayed calm.

The doctors “had a few tools and worked their magic and got it out,” Torres said. The “it” in question turned out to be a spider—and not just any harmless house spider (which you shouldn’t kill, by the way). It was a venomous brown recluse spider.

“Gross,” Torres told WDAF-TV. “Why, where, what, and how.”

Miraculously, the spider didn’t bite Torres. If it had, she would’ve ended up visiting the doctor with more than general ear discomfort: Brown recluse bites can cause pain, burning, fever, nausea, and purple or blue discoloration of the surrounding skin, according to Healthline.

Torres may have remained admirably level-headed throughout the ordeal, but that doesn’t mean she’s taking it lightly. “I went and put some cotton balls in my ears last night,” she told WDAF-TV. “I’m shaking off my clothes, and I don’t put my purse on the floor. I’m a little more cautious.”

Is this the first time an insect has posted up in the ear of an unsuspecting, innocent human? Absolutely not—here are six more horror stories, featuring a cockroach, a bed bug, and more.

[h/t WDAF-TV]

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