The Reason Hot Water Can Sometimes Feel Cold

When it comes to unwinding after a long hard day, few options can beat the prospect of a hot shower. With the faucet poised to dial up the heat and steam from the water fogging up the bathroom mirror, the shower becomes a warm invitation for alleviating stress and grime. One need only pull back the curtain, step in, and enjoy as the steamy shower water permeates the skin. But occasionally, it doesn't go down that way.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, a phenomenon known scientifically as paradoxical cold can really put a damper on an otherwise pleasant routine. Victims of paradoxical cold will climb into that same steamy shower, but instead of feeling the warm water trickling down, they are unsuspectingly stricken by a freezing sensation that can even be described as painful. In such a scenario, the water isn't actually cold, but it sure does feel like it is. Here's what causes this wacky experience.

Thermoreceptors send a mixed message to the brain

You might not spend any time thinking about it, but all day long, your body is sending all sorts of signals to your brain that describe the world around you. Smithsonian Magazine reports that the nerve endings responsible for telling your body what temperature it is are called thermoreceptors. They usually react only to temperatures ranging from hot to cold, but occasionally, they react to chemicals as well. This is why hot peppers cause you to break out into a sweat and toothpaste feels crisp and cool in your mouth.

Nobody knows for sure why the paradoxical cold phenomenon exists as it does not appear to have any evolutionary benefits whatsoever. All scientists have been able to figure out is that something happens to the thermoreceptors when the temperature reaches 113 degrees Fahrenheit (and sometimes beyond) that causes them to malfunction, telling your brain that what is hot is actually cold.