To feel uncomfortably cold in your office when the AC is blasting is normal. However, if you find you are always shivering and can’t seem to warm your hands and feet even after coming into a warm place, you could have cold intolerance.
Cold intolerance is an abnormal sensitivity to cold temperatures and is more severe than the normal feeling of chilliness you feel when out in the cold. Banner Health family medicine physician, Rebecca Moran, MD, shares seven reasons you may be feeling like a popsicle.
“As a woman, we are physiologically programmed to run colder than men,” Dr. Moran says. “We also tend to direct more blood flow to our organs, which can leave our hands and feet colder because blood is being directed elsewhere.”
Water makes up 60% of your body. Water traps heat and then releases it slowly, helping keep your body warm. When you are dehydrated, however, your body is unable to properly regulate heat – leaving you feeling cold. Water also contributes to metabolism, so a lower metabolic rate also means you’ll run cold.
3. Low BMI
“Body fat insulates you from the cold, so if you don’t have an adequate supply of it, you’ll feel colder than others,” Dr. Moran explains.
Patients with cancer or severe chronic diseases often lose body fat and tend to feel cold.
“Patients with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa not only have low body fat, but they also restrict caloric intake,” Dr. Moran says. “Severe calorie restriction lowers the metabolic rate resulting in lower production of body heat.”
If you’re dealing with symptoms like severely restricting your food, you should see a doctor or mental health professional right away.
4. Poor sleep
Sleep deprivation can contribute to feeling colder. It is unclear why, but this might be related to decreased function of the hypothalamus and other endocrine glands which result in lower metabolism.
Anemia is a blood disorder that happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body, according to the American Society of Hematology (ASH). This can be the result of your body making too few red blood cells, destroying too many red blood cells or losing too much blood for some reason, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Dr. Moran explains there are many types of anemia, but the most common is due to iron deficiencies.
The thyroid hormone has many important functions throughout the body, including regulation of the body’s metabolism. If a person’s thyroid hormone level is too low then their metabolism will slow, resulting in less heat generation and a person feeling colder.
7. Circulation or blood vessel problem
Circulation problems that decrease blood flow to the fingers and toes can cause those areas to feel cold.
“The heart might not be pumping blood effectively enough to reach the extremities, or else blockages in the arteries related to cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or smoking might prevent enough blood from getting to those areas,” Dr. Moran says. “Blood clotting disorders can also result in blocked arteries and impair blood circulation.”
Some blood vessel disorders (such as Raynaud’s) cause blood vessels to spasm and become narrow, causing the extremities to become cold due to decreased blood flow to those areas.
“Raynaud's disease is more frequently treated with behavioral modifications, but you need to check in with your doctor for a diagnosis first as there are situations where Raynaud’s is the result of another condition and may require medication,” Dr. Moran says.
Are you under a blanket right now? Since feeling cold all the time could be a sign of something more serious, don’t ignore the symptoms. You should see a doctor if cold intolerance is a new symptom for you and doesn’t go away.
Find a Banner Health provider in your area.