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Good Question: Why Is It Uncomfortable When Temps Match Body Heat?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Kids say the darndest things, and every now and again, they ask really good questions.

This one comes from 12-year-old Alex Motley, who wanted to know: if your body is normally 98.6 degrees inside, then why does 98 degrees outside feel so hot and uncomfortable? Good Question.

Dr. Jim Nordin with Health Partners Medical Group said the reason our resting temperature of 98.6 degrees is livable is because the typical skin temperature is around 70-75 degrees.

When the skin hits extreme heat, your sweat glands come to the rescue.

“Well, you think about hanging laundry out. If it’s a nice day and the humidity is low, the laundry dries pretty fast,” Nordin said.

If it’s humid, it takes time to dry. Nordin said on Wednesday sweat evaporated more slowly and wasn’t nearly as effective at cooling.

“That’s why the high humidity makes it feel even hotter,” he said.

Another reason Wednesday felt especially hot is because the body’s cooling system takes time to acclimate to the warmer weather.

“It’s putting more blood into the skin so there’s more heat radiating that way, you sweat more,” he said.

The reason you put your thermometer under your tongue is because it’s taking the internal temperature, which is different from the temperature of your skin. It’s the same as the ear thermometers that measure inner ear temperatures.

In fact, Nordin says the thermometers you put under your arms don’t work as well because they’re taking into account skin temperature.

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