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ellbur's avatar

Why are my fingers colder than room temperature?

Asked by ellbur (71 points ) 1 month ago

So, I was using a thermocouple at work. It showed ambient temperature at around 18°C. When I held the thermocouple with my fingers, I noticed that the temperature reading dropped by about 1°C.

I’m a little concerned by this. Even if I had no circulation in my hands, I don’t think they would get any colder than room temperature.

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5 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Think of it this way…fingers are an extremity….and as extremities, they are more susceptible to and able to adjust to the ambient temps they are exposed to.

JLeslie's avatar

When the condition is severe it often is diagnosed as Raynaud’s. People who have this condition have very very cold hands, their skin tends to crack! even bleed.

Our bodies heat our important organs first. Heart, liver, kidneys, even a growing baby in a woman’s uteris. The extremeties like hands and feet tend to get cold easily to maintain healthy temps in our core. Men’s bodies usually are better at keeping extremeties warm. The theory there is women can get pregnant and keeping the species going is important in nature so maintaining good core temp for safe fetus incubation is paramount. The other part of the theory is men are the ones typically out hunting and gathering so their hands and feet are more exposed.

Keep your hands warm, take it seriously. Feet too. Wear gloves, socks etc. Being able to fall asleep and stay asleep has been shown to be connected to extremeties temperatures. It works for me. If I am having trouble falling asleep and realize my feet are cold if I bother to get some sleep socks out of my dresser I fall asleep quickly after that.

Cold hands are very common. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have circulation troubles. If you have trouble staying warm it can be a slow thyroid. Many people have cold hands and are cold in general and their thyroid is fine, but it is a symptom of hypothyroidism.

thorninmud's avatar

Let’s assume that your body has clamped down on the blood supply to your extremities so that very little heat is traveling from your core out to fingers and toes. Under those conditions, given enough time, the fingers should eventually stabilize to very near ambient temperature. So how to account for the 1°C difference?

One obvious explanation would be that your fingers simply haven’t had enough time to recover from some prior exposure to colder temps. But that’s just boring. Another thing to consider is that heating system thermostats maintain room temp within a couple of degrees of the set temperature, so there will be fluctuations in temp as the system cycles on and off. It could be that your reading of the ambient temperature coincided with the high point of the cycle, and your fingers, with their greater thermal inertia, were lagging behind.

One more thing to consider: at the surface of skin, water is constantly evaporating from the pores. This evaporation results in local cooling. The effect is exaggerated when the relative humidity is low, as it often is in heated environments. So even if the average temperature of your whole finger is slightly warmer that the ambient temperature, the temperature of the skin (which is what the thermocouple would measure) could be cooler.

kritiper's avatar

Bad circulation. Have you seen a doctor??

filmfann's avatar

It could be because your fingers were in the wind, and whatever else you measured didn’t have the same positioning.

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