Why Do I Shiver When I'm Cold?

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

When we get cold, sometimes our bodies start moving—even if we don't mean for them to. Our teeth chatter, and different parts of our bodies shake and quake, no matter how still we try to stay. Brr! 

Shivering is one of several ways the body tries to keep warm when it's cold out. It’s part of a process is called homeostasis, which means that your body wants to keep things consistent. In other words, your insides need to stay about the same temperature, no matter how hot or cold it is outside, and shivering helps make that happen. 

When your warm body (which is about 98.6° Fahrenheit) is exposed to cold air, the heat from your body flows into the air. This is because heat always flows from a hot object to a cold object, as a way of balancing out the differences in temperature. It’s like when you put a pot of water on the stove, and the hot fire warms the cold water. Only in this case, you’re the fire, and the heat from your body is warming up the air around you. If the air is cold enough to steal your body heat, you feel cold. To make up for all the heat you’re losing to the cold air, your body shivers to try to produce even more warmth. 

If you can’t keep your body warm enough by wearing warm clothes or moving closer to the heater—say, if you go outside in a t-shirt on a snowy day—your body will try to make as much heat as it can on its own. When you shiver, your muscles tighten and relax over and over again in a short amount of time. The energy that it takes to make your muscles do that gives off heat, keeping your body a little warmer than it would otherwise be—although you might still feel chilly standing in the snow in your t-shirt. You'll warm up much quicker if you put on a coat than if you expect your body to do all the work by itself!


Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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How the Scientist Who Invented Ibuprofen Accidentally Discovered It Was Great for Hangovers

This man had too many dry martinis at a business lunch.
This man had too many dry martinis at a business lunch.
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

When British pharmacologist Stewart Adams and his colleague John Nicholson began tinkering with various drug compounds in the 1950s, they were hoping to come up with a cure for rheumatoid arthritis—something with the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin, but without the risk of allergic reaction or internal bleeding.

Though they never exactly cured rheumatoid arthritis, they did succeed in developing a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that greatly reduced pain of all kinds. In 1966, they patented their creation, which was first known as 2-(4-isobutylphenyl) propionic acid and later renamed ibuprofen. While originally approved as a prescription drug in the UK, it soon became clear ibuprofen was safer and more effective than other pain relievers. It eventually hit the market as an over-the-counter medication.

During that time, Adams conducted one last impromptu experiment with the drug, which took place far outside the lab and involved only a single participant: himself.

In 1971, Adams arrived in Moscow to speak at a pharmacology conference and spent the night before his scheduled appearance tossing back shots of vodka at a reception with the other attendees. When he awoke the next morning, he was greeted with a hammering headache. So, as Smithsonian.com reports, Adams tossed back 600 milligrams of ibuprofen.

“That was testing the drug in anger, if you like,” Adams told The Telegraph in 2007. “But I hoped it really could work magic.”

As anyone who has ever been in that situation can probably predict, the ibuprofen did work magic on Adams’s hangover. After that, according to The Washington Post, the pharmaceutical company Adams worked for began promoting the drug as a general painkiller, and people started to stumble upon its use as a miracle hangover cure.

“It's funny now,” Adams told The Telegraph. “But over the years so many people have told me that ibuprofen really works for them, and did I know it was so good for hangovers? Of course, I had to admit I did.”

[h/t Smithsonian.com]