What Are Goose Bumps?

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You probably know goose bumps as the tiny raised bumps that appear on your skin whenever you are feeling a bit chilly or even scared. Goose bumps are a temporary change in the skin and disappear often within seconds or minutes. There are a couple internal factors that causes goose bumps in both humans and animals.

  1. Goose Bumps in Humans

    • Goose bumps are formed by certain stimuli, such as cold or fear. Either stimulus causes an involuntary nerve discharge from the sympathetic nervous system, which is known for activating the "fight or flight" response. This nerve discharge, and the subconscious release of a stress hormone called adrenaline, cause tiny muscles at the hair follicles to contract and elevate above the skin, which results in the hairs standing erect. This is what humans recognize as goose bumps. Other signs of adrenaline release include sweaty palms, trembling hands, high blood pressure and a racing heart. There is no benefit from getting goose bumps for humans.

    Goose Bumps in Animals

    • Apart from humans, other mammals also experience goose bumps. Unlike humans, the goose bumps in animals are used to protect the animal from danger by the bristling of fur, which is often seen in cats, by making the animal appear larger and more frightening than what it really is. Goose bumps in many animals keep them warmer by increasing the amount of air between the hairs, creating insulation and trapping the body heat.

    Etymology

    • Goose bumps are also referred to as goose flesh, goose pimples, chill bumps and chicken skin. Goose bumps derived its name from geese. When a goose's feathers are plucked, this results in protrusions of the bird's skin where the feathers once grew, resembling the tiny bumps that appear on human skin as a result of fear or cold, hence the name "goose bumps."

    Keratosis Pilarsis

    • Goose bumps should not be confused with keratosis pilarsis, a skin condition that resembles goose bumps and is found mostly in teenagers and adults. This condition is caused by an excess production of keratin that builds up around the hair follicles. Keratosis pilarsis becomes more aggravated during the colder seasons, when the color and feel of the condition becomes more pronounced. Dry skin tends to worsen the condition.

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