98.6 vs 72 degrees

Why do most people find that 72 degrees (or thereabouts) is a comfortable temperature when our body temp. is 98.6?

I’ve always wondered about this.

WAG. I would suppose that a temperature difference of about 26 [sup]o[/sup] F provides adequate heat transfer from the body to the air without excessiver perspiration.

Slight correction. The 98.6[sup]o[/sup] temperature is the oral temperature. Rectal temperature is different and skin temperature is different still.

The temperature difference isn’t 26[sup]o[/sup] between the skin and the environment.

However, whatever that difference is it still provides adequate heat transfer for comfort.


The simple answer is because we wear clothes. And we are generally in some kind of motion, meaning we’re creating heat. Both of which keep us warm when it’s 72 degrees. As an experiment, try laying on the floor (i.e. not moving), naked, at 72 degrees. I bet you’ll feel cold.

ski: This is from the link in the post just above yours.

What, you think I read the other posts before posting? :smiley:

Actually, though, that post and mine are discussing slightly different approaches. I’m saying why 72 feels comfortable with clothes, or would be cool if you’re naked. The “competitor” quoted in the link is saying you would be comfortable at 98 - two different ideas. 98 would indeed feel hot when naked, because your body would not be able to self-cool as effectively.

Later in that column, Cecil agrees with me, in that “if you’re very lightly dressed you may prefer 80”, or said another way “if you’re very lightly dressed, 72 may be cooler than is comfortable”.