I'm having trouble understanding a use of the word "tingling". I heard "my throat is tingling" is feeling numb sensation when my American husband caught a cold.

But in my language (Japanese), we don't say feeling numb for throat. We feel stinging feeling like tiny needles into throat (we say it chikuchiku) or throat feel igaiga which means throat is rough by inflammation and when you swallow, you feel stinging sensation. But my husband says tingling throat is really feels like numb, no feeling of throat. Is that called "tingling"?

Also I checked the definition:

"what is tingle: to have a feeling as if a lot of sharp points are being put quickly and lightly into your body"
"experience or cause to experience a slight prickling or stinging sensation."

But it's very unclear for me because I found these sentences:

"That face lotion makes my skin tingle."
"My fingers and toes are tingling with the cold."

But seems all different sensation.

We don't say something like stinging sensation for lotion didn't good for us. We feel like hurt by burning sensation, electronic sensation. and when we feel hand get so cold and hurt, we express it hirihiri which is like burning hurt sensation by cold weather.

And seems like tingling is used for pins and needles (paraesthesia) in legs or hands. But it's like no feeling for hands, legs and feeling electronic sensation and if people feel it in legs, hard to walk or can't stand up. Sounds so different to stinging, pricking sensation :(

So I'm having trouble understanding this.
Tingling is only used for numb, stinging sensation?! I'm feeling like we feel different sensation by culture. Or just English isn't clear and using "tingling" in many situations?

  • People usually speak of having a sore or ticklish throat. Tingling is a sensation caused by (unpredictable) low-level firing of sensory nerve inputs (below the level of pain). Which may be associated with "numbness" because if neurons are firing unpredictably you can't tell whether whatever you "feel" through them represents actual contact, heat, vibration, or whatever. Note that the relatively uncommon verb usage to ting means to make a brief ringing sound - nothing to do with to tingle, tingling. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 16:06
  • Note that tingling isn't necessarily a negative thing in English - sometimes it's an invigorating or even pleasant experience. You can experience a "tingle of excitement" and having the face lotion make your face tingle might be a good thing. Tingling can even be associated with sexual pleasure. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 16:42
  • You said: I heard "my throat is tingling" is feeling numb sensation when my American husband caught a cold. Who said that to you??
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


In the comments, @FumbleFingers described tingling as "(unpredictable) low-level firing of sensory nerve inputs (below the level of pain)."

That "below the level of pain" is pretty important and is what distinguishes tingling from some a sensation that involves low levels of pain like "prickling" or "scratching."

This might be why your American husband used this word for his throat - he wasn't necessarily saying that his throat was numb, but could have been saying that there wasn't any pain, just a feeling of some unusual sensations as if something was lightly scraping his throat.

Because tingling doesn't involve pain, it is not necessarily a negative thing. It might be distracting or annoying if it's unwanted tingling in your foot after blood-flow was temporarily stopped and restored, but there are also cases of good tingling. For example, face lotion might be deliberately formulated to cause a tingling feeling (through astringents or similar ingredients) because people associate that feeling with cleanliness or rejuvenation.

A number of strong emotions, both negative and positive, can cause a tingling feeling as blood rushes into the capillaries close to the skin: anxiety or embarrassment, but also excitement or sexual arousal. Sometimes this is used metaphorically: "tingling with excitement" might mean that you've literally felt that capillary action caused by strong emotion, or it could just mean "very excited."

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