Does body temperature increase with fear?

March 25, 2010

When we encounter something which makes us afraid, the body reacts in many ways. The first response is that of ‘fight or flight’. In either case, the adrenaline glands are the first to react and we experience a sudden rush of adrenaline. This causes a chain reaction to the various muscles and organs of the body.

One of the first reactions is of the heart, which begins to pump more blood. The lungs also begin to take in more oxygen (although sometimes, fear may produce a reverse condition with a feeling of suffocation). The additional oxygen is quickly transported throughout the body, leading to a flushed look, causing a possible slight rise in temperature. The extra oxygen also raises energy levels by burning up more glucose. This again may cause a slight rise in temperature.

However, the rise in temperature is very marginal, and does not last too long.

Scientific tests on other animals: Researchers have conducted many tests on animals and laboratory rats to see if their body temperature rises with fear. They first inject a radio-active dye into the animal, and then introduce a fear element. They use infra-red thermography to get images in cutaneous temperatures to see the responses. They found that the animal usually froze into immobility, with the heart rate and arterial pressure rising. But while paw and tail temperatures fell, temperatures of the back, head and eye increased slightly.

It is a fact, that while body temperature may or may not increase, we do tend to feel hot when we are afraid. Anxiety and fear often causes us to sweat. But this is just a temporary phase and we may find that when the sweat cools and dries, we may begin to shiver or feel cold.

Actually, each individual reacts in a different way to fear. Some people may even experience a drop in body temperature, when they are afraid. They may feel their hands and feet becoming cold, and they may begin to tremble or shiver.

Some people may feel their mouth go dry. Some feel a shortness of breath or a tightness or even pain in the area of the chest. A few feel a tingling or even a sort of electric shock on their skin. This is caused by the rush of blood to the skin, making it very sensitive. A few people may become numb, while some feel tightness in their abdominal area.

Submitted by M T on March 25, 2010 at 12:15

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