Why do we get goosebumps when we're cold or scared!

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Nov 08, 2017
Quick Bites

  • When you are feeling cold, you may experience goosebumps.
  • Strong emotional responses can provoke goosebumps.
  • You may get goosebumps on experiencing an intellectual or spiritual epiphany.

You would have experienced goosebumps several times in your life. Feeling cold can give you goosebumps, but cold isn't the only thing that triggers goosebumps. Something that is thrilling and frightening can trigger goosebumps. 


Goosebumps also referred to as pilomotor reflex, goose pimples, chill bumps and gooseflesh, is a biological response that makes human hair to stand on end. The medical term for goose bumps is cutis anserina.

When feeling chilly, it is your body’s physiological response to retain heat. Body pores are closed so that heat doesn't escape; this is the reason you get goosebumps. Getting goosebumps is considered a momentary affliction, but it’s a complex involuntary process. 


Cold – When you are feeling cold, you may experience goosebumps. It is actually the body's response against chill to keep you warm. Hair and skin muscles become erect. You can see the bumps on any part of the body, but most common body parts to experience the bumps are forearms and legs.

Emotions – A physiological reaction prompts a nerve discharge from our involuntary nervous system. It makes tiny hair muscles located beneath each hair follicle to contract and pushes the hair follicle upwards; as a result, this is how we experience goosebumps. There are several emotions that evoke strong emotional responses to provoke goosebumps.

Goosebumps are mostly triggered by emotions such as fear, anger or excitement. For example, reading a touching book of poetry or a romantic book or a dear book from your childhood can also give you the chill bumps.

According to researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, goosebumps originate in the brain's limbic system. They may show up when a person is experiencing an intellectual or spiritual epiphany.

Drugs and medications – Besides feeling cold and strong emotions, drugs and medications can cause the hair on the skin to rise. Some of the drugs that can give you goosebumps are meth, cocaine, and other illegal drugs. The physical and psychological effects of these drugs cause the nervous system and muscles to behave unnaturally and we get goosebumps. Withdrawal from drugs can be another reason for goosebumps.

In addition to increasing the amount of air between the hairs to trap body heat, there is one more purpose that goosebumps serve.  According to biologists, the goosebumps evolved as part of the fight-or-flight reaction. Fight-or-flight reaction coupled with an increased heart rate betters blood circulation, thus providing muscles with enough oxygen.

Goosebumps are a temporary change in the skin which goes away within minutes. You can stop goosebumps by putting on warm clothes or taking a warm bath. This will make the adjustments to your core temperature and relax you.

If you are experiencing goosebumps often, it can be keratosis pilarsis. A skin condition that resembles goosebumps, keratosis pilarsis is caused by an excess production of keratin that builds up around the hair follicles. The condition becomes more pronounced during the winters. Keratosis pilaris isn't often a serious medical condition, but get yourself checked.

Image Source: Getty




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