A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Always feeling cold? 6 health conditions that may be the reason why

Woman wrapped in a scarf, adjusting the thermostat - Always cold

See your doctor if you’re always cold while others feel warm or comfortable.

You’re bound to feel cold sometimes when there’s a chill in the air. But if you can’t get warm, even when bundled in warm clothes or indoors with the heater on, your problem may not be related to the weather.

“Healthy bodies can regulate temperature in cold environments for about an hour,” said Dr. Eseoghene Abokede, a Marshfield Clinic Health System family medicine physician. “If I step into the cold weather outside without warm clothing, my body’s internal temperature regulators should receive signals and work to generate heat. One heat-generating mechanism leads to shivering.”

If your body doesn’t try to maintain core body temperature after spending time in the cold, or you consistently feel cold when others are warm, then it’s time to talk to your doctor.

6 reasons why you’re always cold

1. Hypothyroidism

“This is one of the most common reasons people always feel cold,” Abokede said. “The thyroid drives metabolism. With a low-functioning thyroid gland, metabolism is slowed and the body can’t generate an adequate amount of heat to maintain core body temperature.”

2. Anemia

Anemia means you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen, heat and nutrients across the body. When hemoglobin is low, heat transfer is affected.

3. Poor circulation

Underlying arterial disease could be causing inadequate blood circulation, making it hard to maintain core body temperature, especially in your extremities. Smoking affects temperature regulation in a similar way by causing blood vessels to constrict.

4. Raynaud’s phenomenon

“Raynaud’s phenomenon is a medical condition that works by a similar mechanism to smoking,” Abokede said. “Blood vessels, especially those in the extremities, tend to constrict when the skin receptors sense cold. The feeling is most noticeable in your hands and feet.”

5. Diabetes

Poor diabetes control causes nerve damage, or neuropathy, which impairs the body’s temperature regulators.

6. Dehydration

Water drives your metabolism by helping break down food, which creates energy and heat. Not enough water slows your metabolism and prevents your body from making enough energy to keep you warm.

Your doctor can check your vitals and order certain blood tests to check for these and other medical conditions that may cause you to feel cold.

Tips for getting warm and staying safe

Take steps to retain body heat if you frequently feel cold. Wear layered clothing. Inner layers of wool and polypropylene fabric are known for good heat retention. Wearing a hat and gloves also helps retain heat. Stay hydrated with warm beverages like tea and hot chocolate. These steps may help you feel comfortable, at least temporarily.

Be careful spending time outdoors in cold weather if you’re always cold and don’t know the underlying cause.

“You’re more likely to become incapacitated than a healthy individual because your body isn’t producing enough heat or you can’t tolerate cold,” Abokede said. “People who know they have medical conditions that make them feel cold can take precautions to be safe while enjoying winter activities.”

For questions about always being cold, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

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