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When was the last time your hair stood up on the back of your neck? Ever wonder why?

Goosebumps and your neck hair standing on end are sibling responses, so to speak, caused by fear, low temperatures, stress, or other extreme emotions or conditions. They are both caused by contractions of miniature muscles (attached to each hair) that create a shallow depression on the skin surface. In turn, the surrounding area protrudes causing both bumps on your skin and the hair on your arms and neck to stand on end. Goosebumps are a physiological phenomenon inherited from our animal ancestors, which was useful to them but are not of much help to us. Goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin that resemble the skin of poultry after the feathers have been plucked.

Cold environments and strong emotions (like fear) are both known to give your skin the texture of plucked poultry. When the muscle fiber connected to a hair follicle tightens, the skin surrounding the follicle puckers into a goose bump, pulling the connected hair straight up

One effect is to generate warmth: straightened hair traps a layer of air against the skin, insulating the body. Unfortunately, human hair is so thin and short as to render the reflex virtually useless, but in hairier mammals goose bumps don't just look silly. In fact, a cat or mouse's battle-ready stance is related to our own pilomotor reflex. In their case the muscles are responding to perceived threats by making the animals appear larger.

Although human skin varies in color, texture and appearance among individuals, goosebumps can occur in almost every person. It is not a cause for concern if it is short-lived and arises with known trigger factors like cold or emotions. In order to exclude these normal goosebumps from abnormal goosebumps, it is important to do simple things like turn up the heat, wear more clothes and try to stay relaxed. Goosebumps will reverse within minutes if it is a normal physiologic response to cold or emotion.

If goosebumps persist beyond these measures then it is possibly due to other pathologic factors. The other signs and symptoms that may be present include:

-Malaise (feeling of being unwell)

-Changes in appetite

-Raised or lowered body temperature

-Excessive sweating

-Very fast or slow heart rate

-High or low blood pressure

-Redness or paleness of the skin

-Pains (at a specific site) or general aches throughout the body

-Lightheadedness or dizziness

-Altered mental state

Should you experience any of these symptoms associated with your goosebumps, talk to your doctor.

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