Thread Tools
Old 01-06-2005, 10:42 PM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 1,574
Substances so cold they burn

I was curious why extremely cold substances, especially liquids, feel like they're burning your skin when you come in contact with them. I read somewhere that it was because the heat was "flowing" through your skin and nerves as it left your body. This doesn't seem logical to me though. What's the real deal?
Old 01-06-2005, 11:09 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: S.E.Iowa USA
Posts: 2,773
Dunno the answer to your question but

Part of the training for handling Anhydrous Ammonia is protecting skin from burns. Basicly rubber gloves and eye protection.
Several years ago my Father in Law was burnt from his upper chest to his knees.He spent several days in the hospital. He was lucky the valve was off and it was just the ammonia in the hose that burnt him.
It can be nasty stuff.
Old 01-06-2005, 11:12 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: S.E.Iowa USA
Posts: 2,773
Perhaps I'd better qualify my post.
He was applying agricultural anhydrous ammonia and used the hose to pull himself up on the wagon.
Old 01-06-2005, 11:44 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 4,542
It might have something to do with the various liquids freezing and bursting cells.
Old 01-07-2005, 12:00 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Toowoomba Qld, Australia.
Posts: 3
Heat transfers

I think the person that said something about skin cells could be right.

In grade 9 science, I learnt that heat transfers from one object to another. It kinda spreads itself out. Like if you put cold milk into hot coffee.

Say you put something really cold on your arm. Heat will travel from your arm to the 'something really cold'.

As for the burning sensation, it could be due to the extreme variant in temperature. It's probably the same kind of thing that happens when you get sunburn or a burn from 'something really hot'.

An acceptable answer?
Old 01-07-2005, 12:11 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 12,684
Burns are the result of injuries to cells and thereby, tissue. The original cause was heat. However, extreme cold, caustics such as lye or acids, radiation, etc. can also injure or kill cells and such injuries are similar to a burn from heat.
Old 01-07-2005, 12:11 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 8,093
The nervous system doesn't have a special receptor for "freezing cold that kills cells." Ordinary cold, yes, and ordinary heat, but tissue damage, whether it's physical, chemical, or thermal, is all pretty much the same.
Old 01-07-2005, 02:48 PM
BANNED
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7,585
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nametag
The nervous system doesn't have a special receptor for "freezing cold that kills cells." Ordinary cold, yes, and ordinary heat, but tissue damage, whether it's physical, chemical, or thermal, is all pretty much the same.
Yeah, that's the answer as I know it. Extremely cold substances don't burn the skin, but they cause cellular damage. You kill a bunch of cells, it's gonna hurt, no matter what the cause.
Old 01-07-2005, 02:56 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Mid Atlantic, USA
Posts: 8,966
I think that you can tell the difference in feeling between a burn from heat and at least some other kinds of damage. So, there's more than just "pain".

The explanation about heat flowing through the skin sounds dumb to me, too.

Much liklier, I think, is that we didn't have much evolutionary pressure - certainly not for long, anyway - to develop an ability to distinguish dangerously cold things from other things, and so we get senses that aren't very well adapted to it.

We had even less pressure to notice radioactivity, for instance, and we have no sense at all of that. Whereas sharp and hot have been important - and sensible - for a long time.
Old 01-07-2005, 03:51 PM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 1,574
So the consensus is that both burning and freezing damages nerves in the same way and thus cause the same type of pain? Any ideas why we feel like we've been burned in both instances? Perhaps it's because people are more accustomed to being burned than they are to having their cytoplasm frozen, since liquids well below the freezing point of water don't typically occur in nature.

I note that I've never touched anything cold enough to "burn" me. I'm just going by what people say.
Old 01-07-2005, 04:26 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 17
I've also heard that burning and freezing have essentialy the same effect on skin. And I was told by my high school biology teacher that when skin is exposed to extreme hot or cold it causes both your hot and cold receptors to fire, and that is what causes the pain.
Old 01-07-2005, 07:42 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: S.E.Iowa USA
Posts: 2,773
The wound caused by freezing the skin is treated like a burn caused by heat.
Old 01-08-2005, 05:53 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Portland OR
Posts: 121
well if you think about it for a minute it makes sense. What is the evolutionary benefit of being able to sense hot or cold? Ouch that is hot, I shouldn't touch it. Ouch that is extremely cold, probably shouldn't touch it. In both cases your body is sending you a message to remove yourself from the situation. Does your brain really need to feel the difference between hot and cold in order to protect you from the damage they cause?
Old 01-08-2005, 10:32 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 1,114
When I was a kid I thought I stepped on a lit cigarette (common back in they day) when I jerked my foot away I saw an ice cube on the grass. The immediate sensation was identicle to being burned.

Not really scientific proof, but I thought I'd throw out some personal experience.
Old 01-09-2005, 08:09 PM
Guest
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: California
Posts: 2,505
Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier
The explanation about heat flowing through the skin sounds dumb to me, too.
Just to clarify, heat does indeed flow out of your body and into the cold object. There's no denying that. But it is not really the *flow* of heat that causes the burning sensation. It's just the extreme loss of heat, which kills cells, like everyone else said.
Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:47 PM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: [email protected].

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: intercollegiate sports definition college rule ups standard is drowning painless lemon squeeze sorority using landscape timber silenced revolver rear struts leaking your mom porn scene chewing hissing radiators triplets wagon everything's jake meaning komrad russian musical stinger midge short for italian gumba pitchin woo sealand citizenship instavin review bloody slang tank guns lantern mantle klatoo veritas nikto purple goldilocks mission pack jingle roman taboos labrynth riddle sea diamonds grey street meaning heating isopropyl alcohol asshole female masturbate while breastfeeding pumpkin riddles airforce vs navy how to cheat an eye exam best food at dairy queen ford f150 coolant capacity legal definition of parked how long will ups hold a package how to pronounce room how does reverse thrust work my right ear is ringing and feels clogged what does a lightning bolt symbolize why are my allergies worse at night living in an office unmarked police car crown vic christian von koenigsegg net worth can you pay for a car with a check how to remove lichens from roof how much sub q fluids for cats cooks illustrated twice baked potatoes threaded pvc fittings leak what is a rib of celery can i use priority mail box for media mail big brother big sister interview origin of girl friday can of whoopass origin world vision adopt a child what animals have red eyes at night arthur macarthur son of douglas not at this address stamp what happens to eyes when you die song with superman in lyrics can i recycle pots and pans vera farmiga up in the air body double briggs and stratton 190cc horsepower