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DeBlog: Why Are Goosebumps Only On Arms, Legs?

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: Jupiter Images)

CBS Minnesota (con't)

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By Kate Raddatz
Good Question Intern

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’ve all had them at some point in our lives.  Goosebumps might appear when we get scared or cold.

But why do we get goosebumps? And Samantha from Forest Lake wants to know, why do we only seem to get them on our arms and legs?

“Goosebumps are our body’s reflexive reaction to cold, fear, awe, even sexual arousal,” said Dr. Jaime Davis of Uptown Dermatology and SkinSpa. “Just like a porcupine raises its quills when it’s scared, humans can automatically raise their body hairs when they’re cold or scared.”

Goosebumps are specifically the pilometer reflex, a result of tiny muscle contractions by the arrector pili muscles attached to our body hairs.

“(The muscle’s) job is to pull the hair into the standing up position mainly to provide an insulating layer of warm air trapped between the hairs,” she said. “When the muscle contracts, it tugs on the skin and a little bump forms. When it relaxes, the bump smoothes out.”

While it may seem like goosebumps are only on our arms and legs, they’re not limited to certain parts of the body.

“You can get them wherever there are tiny hairs on the body, but we just notice them most where the hairs are largest (like) our arms, legs, scalp, and back,” she said.

Adrenaline can also play a role in giving us the goosebumps.

“This is an automatic reflex sometimes triggered by adrenaline, just like when our heart rate and breathing get faster when you’re scared,” she said.

Davis said anyone at any age is capable of getting goosebumps, even babies. Animals get them too, if they have hair, feathers, or quills.

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