What is cold intolerance?
Cold intolerance is when you’re extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. Cold intolerance is more severe than the normal feeling of chilliness when you’re outdoors on a cool day.
Some people are prone to feeling cold, especially those who have chronic health problems or little body fat. If you have cold intolerance, you’ll likely find yourself complaining of cold when others around you are comfortable or even too warm. Simply adding extra layers of clothing may not relieve your feeling of being cold. It’s also possible to experience sensitivity to cold in certain parts of your body, such as your hands. Cold intolerance can be a symptom of a problem with metabolism.
How common is cold intolerance?
Cold intolerance is common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Which signs and symptoms can cold intolerance usually be associated with?
Related signs and symptoms include:
- Constant fatigue
- Pale skin
- Irregular heartbeats
- Numbness and/or pain in limbs
What causes cold intolerance?
Causes of cold intolerance can include:
- Thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is one of the most recognized causes of cold intolerance. Thyroid disease is a medical problem that requires evaluation and treatment from your doctor.There are a variety of different types and causes of thyroid disease. If your symptoms are consistent with thyroid disease, your doctor will want you to have blood tests, which can identify what type of problem you might be having with your thyroid hormones. Thyroid disease is treatable with medication, and most people with thyroid problems experience significant improvement of symptoms with medical treatment.
- Anemia. Anemia means that your red blood cells are not functioning optimally. There are a number of causes and types of anemia, including hereditary, environmental, and nutritional causes such as iron and vitamin B12 deficiency and lead toxicity. Your doctor can identify anemia through a simple blood test.It is important for you to obtain proper treatment for your anemia, because without treatment, it can get worse.
- Malnutrition. Malnutrition can be somewhat complicated because it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t getting enough to eat. Malnutrition means that the food you eat is not providing the right amount of nutrients.In fact, a person who is overweight may be malnourished and deficient of essential vitamins and minerals. Similarly, a person may eat large amounts of food, yet may be malnourished if a health problem, such as malabsorption or diarrhea, prevents some of the nutrients from being absorbed into the body. Malnutrition can cause anemia, but it may also cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If malnutrition is the result of an unhealthy diet, then changing your diet, and possibly adding vitamin supplements, is the best way to fix that problem. If you have a problem with malnutrition as a result of a digestive system problem, however, then you may need medical—and possibly even surgical—treatment.
- Being veryskinny. Often, thin people are hypersensitive to cold. This is because body fat insulates your body, while muscle helps your body produces heat through metabolism. If you are very skinny, and lacking in muscle and/or body fat, you may be hypersensitive to cold. Not everyone who is very skinny is hypersensitive to cold, however. For example, hyperthyroidism can cause a person to be very skinny and feel hot all the time. And athletes, who may be very thin, may also have a high amount of muscle as a result of physical training.
- Circulation problems. If you are cold all the time, your friends may tell you that you have poor circulation. Circulatory problems may cause the hands and fingers to feel especially cold. Often, circulatory problems also cause the hands and feet to appear pale, or even bluish.A specific circulatory condition called Raynaud’s disease is characterized by episodic narrowing of the blood vessels, which causes the fingers or toes to appear pale or blue. If you experience these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. You cannot fix circulation problems on your own by shaking or massaging your hands or feet, so it is important to pursue medical attention for this problem.
- Neuropathy. Neuropathy, which is disease of the nerves, may produce hypersensitivity of the nerves. This hypersensitivity can cause a cold sensation in the hands or feet all the time, and may also cause you to feel hypersensitive to cold.
- Pituitary problems. The pituitary gland, located in the brain, regulates many of the body’s hormones, including thyroid hormone. Any problem in pituitary gland function causing over or under activity of this gland, can cause problems with temperature regulation, making you feel too hot or too cold all the time.
- Hypothalamic problems. The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain that regulates hormones throughout the body, and also regulates the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus monitors several aspects of the body’s conditions, including temperature, hydration and blood pressure, and adjusts the body’s hormones to fine-tune these conditions. If the hypothalamus is not functioning as it should, you may experience symptoms such as feeling cold all the time.
- Estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that regulates female reproduction. Estrogen levels change throughout life and throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and pregnancy.Fluctuations in estrogen levels can affect sensitivity to cold, causing women to feel colder than usual during some stages of the menstrual cycle.
- Parkinson’s disease. Feeling cold is one of the less recognized symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Overall, this is related to alterations in autonomic function that can occur with Parkinson’s disease.
- Fibromyalgia. Many people with fibromyalgia suffer from symptoms that are inconsistent or that fluctuate over time. Fibromyalgia may cause a variety of distressing symptoms, including a sense of feeling colder than usual all or some of the time.
- Nerve injury. Nerve injury is usually the result of a traumatic accident that damages all or part of a nerve, causing lack of function. However, in addition to a lack of nerve function, people who experience only a partial recovery from nerve injury may experience persistent cold sensation or hypersensitivity to cold in the area of the body that is supplied by the injured nerve.
- Infection. When you have an infection, such as a cold or a ‘stomach bug,’ your whole body may feel cold, and you may even experience chills or shivers. Often, when you have an infection, you can fluctuate between feeling hot and feeling cold, particularly if you have a fever.Feeling cold when you have an infection is in large part due to the fact that your body consumes so much extra energy fighting the infection. Feeling cold as the result of an infection should be a temporary situation that resolves shorty after the infection itself resolves. Many people notice feeling unusually cold in the days before noticing the more recognizable signs of an infection, such as fevers, cough and nausea.
- Fatigue. Fatigue can also cause you to feel cold. Some people notice that their whole body feels colder than usual when they haven’t slept or when they are jet lagged. If you feel cold as a result of fatigue or physical exhaustion, this feeling should resolve once your body is able to get enough rest.
- Medicationside-effects. Some drugs may make you feel colder as a side effect, including beta-blockers used for heart disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These blockers help the heart relax but also may cause you to feel dizzy, tired, nauseous, and colder in your hands and feet. Calcium channel blockers can also be a culprit. Your doctor may be able to lower your dose or find an alternative medication.
The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of cold intolerance. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What increases my risk for cold intolerance?
There are many risk factors for cold intolerance, such as:
- Female gender
- Poor general health
- Being underweight
- A history of metabolic disorders
- Use of certain drugs
- A history of frostbites
Please consult with your doctor for further information.
When to see your doctor
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:
- No history of cold intolerance
- Persistent feeling of being cold
- Extreme cold intolerance
On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cold intolerance?
These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cold intolerance:
- Dress appropriately during cold weather.
- Wear warm layers and keep those areas that are most sensitive covered up to prevent cold exposure
- On extremely cold days, try and stay inside as much as possible.
- Consume hot beverage.
- Use hot pads when necessary.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
What Causes Cold Intolerance? https://www.healthline.com/symptom/cold-intolerance. Accessed February 28, 2019.
5 Reasons You're Always Cold. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/reasons-for-being-cold-fd.html. Accessed February 28, 2019.
Cold intolerance. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003095.htm. Accessed February 28, 2019.
Why Do You Feel Cold All the Time? https://www.verywellhealth.com/why-do-you-feel-cold-all-the-time-4147618. Accessed February 28, 2019.
Review Date: February 28, 2019 | Last Modified: February 28, 2019