Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by samuel. samuel Wonders, “Why do our cheeks blush?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, samuel!
Have you ever felt your face get hot and noticed your cheeks get pink when you were embarrassed or shy? That's called blushing, and just about everybody does it from time to time!
Blushing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. This is the same system that controls panic “flight-or-fight" responses. Blushing is an involuntary reaction, which means your body does it without you even thinking about it.
Try to remember a time you were embarrassed. Do you remember feeling a little jolt of panic? You can thank body chemistry. When you are embarrassed, your body releases a hormone called adrenaline.
Adrenaline does unusual things to your body, which are all part of the fight-or-flight response. When your body releases adrenaline, it causes your breathing and heart rate to increase. This prepares your body to run from danger. Adrenaline also causes your pupils to grow larger, which helps you take in more visual information than usual.
Adrenaline also causes “vasodilation," which is a fancy word for widening of the blood vessels. When blood vessels get wider, blood flows more quickly. This is the reason some people blush.
Like blood vessels, the veins in your face respond to adrenaline and get bigger, allowing more blood to pass through. The increased blood flow gives your cheeks a rosy appearance.
While scientists understand the physical process of blushing, they're still not sure what purpose, if any, it serves. Some researchers think it is the body's automatic way of admitting guilt over something…and apologizing for it.
For example, imagine you are helping your parents wash the dishes and you accidentally break a plate. Even before you have a chance to apologize, blushing would be your body's way of letting your parents know it was an accident and you feel bad.