Is there a scientific reason that some people feel habitually cold?

-asks Heather B. from Santa Rosa, CA

August 14, 2006
And this is August! [CREDIT: GREGG]
And this is August! [CREDIT: GREGG]

It’s true some people are always cold. They sleep under five comforters in the winter and always carry an extra sweater on the hottest summer days (hey, there’s always the risk of an over-zealous air conditioner!). Does this mean there’s something medically wrong with these people? Probably not—although there is a condition called severe cold intolerance, it’s rare and unlikely to be the problem.

Instead, some studies suggest that simply changing your lifestyle could help. Eating better, exercising more, and reducing stress are a few initial steps that could cut the cold.

The human body works in different ways to regulate temperature. For example, without moving at all, your muscles produce up to 25 percent of your body’s normal temperature. Muscles are always slightly contracted—a state called “muscle tone.” This partly explains the recommendation to exercise more: the more muscle mass you build, the more tone you have, and the more heat your body produces at rest. Internal organs, like your heart, liver, and kidneys are another major source of heat. They’re continuously working and, as a byproduct of that work, creating heat. The liver, for instance, is responsible for up to 20 percent of your body’s heat—so be good to your liver and put down that fifth beer!

All of this involuntary temperature regulation is orchestrated by the brain. Acting as an internal thermostat is one of the many jobs of the hypothalamus, an area at the base of the brain. When your body gets too hot, the hypothalamus turns on the AC—blood vessels near the surface of your skin open up to release the heat (sometimes making you flushed) and you start sweating. When your body gets too cold, the hypothalamus shuts off the AC and seals the windows. Small blood vessels close up to conserve heat, making your hands, nose and toes feel very cold. And if too much heat is lost, your brain tells your muscles to spasm into a shiver, upping the internal production of heat by increasing muscle tone.

But for the die-hard hypochondriac, that ever-present chill could potentially be a symptom of various syndromes and diseases. The two that would most likely warrant a check-in with the doctor are Raynaud’s disease and hypothyroidism.

Raynaud’s disease causes extremities, like fingers and toes, to turn blue in response to the cold or to emotional stress. This is usually accompanied by some pain or numbness in the hands, and when blood flow does return, the area usually gets red and tingles or throbs. It’s a rare disorder that affects more women than men. But if you think you have it, you may want to see a rheumatologist, since some cases develop into arthritic disease.

Another disorder that can cause cold intolerance is hypothyroidism, which happens when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormones that control metabolism. Hypothyroidism can cause a person to gain weight, feel tired, sluggish or weak, and often also feel cold. Luckily, it can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, and medications to correct the problem are readily available.

So although most people’s sensitivity to the cold can be easily controlled with a few warmer articles of clothing, it’s always best to check with a doctor if you think it could be something more serious.


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Meghan says:

I too am always on the cool end of the spectrum. I am a 50 yr old white female. Small frame fair skin 5’5″ in height. My weight averages usually between 98 and 103 lbs. I am hypoglycemia

Meghan says:

Whoops, I have hypoglycemia. Symptoms began at 18, diagnosed at 32. Very little body fat. I wear an undershirt everyday. I am miserable below about 73°f. I dress in light layers year round to keep my core temp at a suitable temperature

Meghan says:

I dont ask for the temperature to be raised when I am at work. I just adjust my dress as needed. I would rather take off a layer if needed. Drinking warm liquids, I would think would defeat the purpose?! Seems as though that would put your body into cooling mode. Just my thoughts on subject. Thanks

Meghan says:

i dont no

Meghan says:

i just feel cold today and everyone else is warm

Golgafrinchan_Ark_B says:

Another cause: I have rheumatic heart disease with associated arrhythmias and an AV block. My heart rate can easily fall to the high 30s. The lower my rate, the chillier I feel. A caffeinated beverage and warm quilt help at home, atropine IV prior to surgery (helps the SA node to function more normally by increasing the heart rate). There are a number of other medical conditions that cause chronic chilliness, too.

Janice Govender says:

Hi I live in Durban South Africa. I am always feeling colder than others around me on a cool day, and I always carry a jacket even on a warm day for when I get cold. I am uncomfortable when I get cold. Everybody around me just makes fun of how cold I feel and that I am always dressed up warm. Well on a hot day yes I do feel hot. But what can I do if I feel cold while others don’t.

Deep says:

I think I have absolutely this towards the severe side. Since my colleagues wear dresses above knees, one t-shirt, I am wearing one thermal layer pant and dress pant on top. Same things above the belt. Two socks, eve then my foot and hands are super cold for typing I normally wear two layers of socks and then sit on room heater to work. If I just wear v neck sweater and no scarf, I get fever and cold next day just by getting cold air around my neck and chest.

I keep drinking ginger tea 3 times, drink warm water all the time. If I ever drink or eat icecream sure shot I am getting fever and sore throat next day. Every one laughs at my dressing style but I will be sick if I dont bundle up myself.

In summer if I am sitting straight in sun then I get dizzy even though I am well hydrated. If it sunny day but I am standing in shadow, I need a hoodie on me. Looks like my thermostat inside is totally uncontrollable.

ZaoZap says:

Indeed, started with me Jan.2016 : up til then I was always warm or even too hot (always, except in extreme extreme cold weather)….. & could spend up to an hour in sea water of only 17 deg C in just shorts without getting cold ! – Now I feel frozen even when wrapped up at air temps of 21 deg C / 70 F… this is very annoying…

ZaoZap says:

Your hypothalamus may have gone “off track” – not easy to get that diagnosed (!) (guides the pituitary gland & pituitary produces a large range of steering hormones)…
– or possibly thyroid has gone hypothyroid (low) – that can be tested with T3 & T4 levels in blood (don’t trust only TSH, as that is NOT the actual thyroid hormones, TSH is the driving signal to the thyroid…)
– or anemic
check iron / ferritin level in blood. Only having hemacrotit level value from blood is not the whole story by far ! Low Ferritin / low vit C may not help…

ZaoZap says:

“just a mid life effect” quoted at me on occasion – even though it’s quite extreme…

Stephen says:

I found this just searching and although it doesn’t fit me good article. Im 18 and i feel cold but at the same time i feel the heat that I’m producing because of being cold.

Bala says:

I feel cold while under AC… when everyone else with similar body type or even leaner than me could adapt, my body could not and starts to shiver in just less than an hour while under ACs… hands are getting too cold and so do legs and body shivers… what would it be….. Am 24 and this condition of me is irritating me…..

TheLittleCoder says:

I am 11 years old and 2 years ago I absolutely loved cold(I walked in a t-shirt at 55-60 Celsius). 1 year ago I started hating it and My favorite temps are between 78 and 85(normal temp). My parents are also saying I’m gonna overheat(While wearing A Fluffy jacket at 76F) while I feel like I am standing right next to an opened refrigerator in a t-shirt. Does anyone have an explanation

Mary says:

I have a cold nose and this happens generally whilst I m in bed. It goes numb and I can squeeze and I don’t feel. My toes and fingers are very warm along with the rest of me. I do worry about it sometime soon after all I don’t want to lose my nose :-)

Fredric says:

lol, i have the same s–t problem. i’m 31. My parents are warm. I have to eat and drink warm and go on hard bicycle rides etc to feel normally warm. I don’t have any deficiencies or any diseases according to blood tests and medicals. Sometimes, bam i’m hot out of the blue, and on other days i am going colder and colder for no f—g reason, then i do a hot foot bath for 20 min (inflatable footbath). Maybe there is lack of some neurotransmitter like oxytocin, nitric oxide, pregnenolone, serotonin, GABA or whatever or maybe too much norepinephrine, after drinking coffee i get very cold. Prostaglandins increase bodytempreature and there are thermogenics that turn on UCP-1. Maybe we have low UCP-1 activity? Well this mystery should have been solved by scientists long ago? it can’t be rocket science.

nitesh goyal says:

In some cases according to science due to low sexual habbit or girls which r not married due to their lower body temperature cold can occur but in that cases girls will done have to worry

Walter says:

I really miss being fat!! I’m freezing these days im down to 160.

P says:

I is always cold think it is partly solitude, partly aneimia, probably other factors.

A Li says:

My brother feels very cold every day. He wears an extra heavy coat and 3 or 4 heavy layers pants in August hot summer time. He started having this symptom 7 years ago. He is 40 years old now. He doesn’t have any deficiencies or any diseases according to blood tests and medicals. He sleeps under five comforters around the year and always carry some extra sweaters on the hottest summer days. As a matter of fact, he don’t feel like going out since he had this symptom 7 years ago. He started a family around 10 years ago. My sister in-law has a job. They have a son 10 years old now. My brother can’t go to work because he is not only feeling so cold but also having headache. I don’t want him staying at home for rest of his life as he still so young. He really needs help to recover. Please help him recover !!! If you have known someone who has the same symptom and who has recovered, please let me know. If you are a doctor who knows how to treat this symptom, please contact me. Thanks.

Lj K says:

In the past 16 months, my water intake has been at minimum in ounces equal to my weight upwards to 1 1/2 times my weight. I have lost most of my muscle mass, my skin is “crepy”. I developed osteopenia in the past 2 years, as evidenced by my bone density tests taken every 2 years. Dr’s repeatedly dismiss my symptoms and concerns, to include endocrinologist. However, my blood protein level was very low as was albumin. Upon awakening, I become so incredibly cold internally, that I had to crank the heat up to 75, put on a hoody, sweat pants, thick socks and crawl under covers for hours until my body heats up. Also am pre diabetic which makes zero sense since I eat no dairy, nothing “white”, no sweets, no carbs to speak of. My diet consists of chicken breasts, occasional eggs, fruits and vegetables. I decided to research my issues to find a natural way to deal with them. Started taking Vit D, calcium, magnesium, and amino acids. Literally within the 3rd day, no more freezing upon awakening. My blood sugar upon awakening was at 100 -109, is now in mid 70’s – mid 80’s. This all changed within ONE week of using the supplements. I’m doing weights now as my energy level is higher as well. In 3 weeks I will have another series of blood testing done to see if my levels have changed. I’m no longer considered pre-diabetic. I have NO IDEA which of the supplements are responsible for the changes in my body issues, or if all are, but something has certainly changed for the better and I’m sticking with it. All the Dr’s want to do is give prescription meds that have more side effects than what the pill is treating. Sick of that mentality. And yes, prescription pills certainly has their place and need. But not every thing that happens with our bodies requires a pill written from a Dr. Just wanted to share my experience in hopes it helps someone.

Srimathi Ponnusamy says:

I feel cold while under AC… when everyone else with similar body type or even leaner than me could adapt, my body could not and starts to shiver in just less than an hour while under ACs… hands are getting too cold and so do legs and body shivers… what would it be….. Am 24 and this condition of me is irritating me…..

pigbitinmad says:

NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!

The problem is not with me. The problem is with these slobs who equate a non-humid, perfectly beautiful 75 degree Fall day to a day’s hard labor in the Amazon rain forest in (their) Summer!!!

I am the one who doesn’t eat a bunch of crap, and I am not all that cold in the depths of Winter (when I am dressed accordingly).

On the aforementioned beautiful day, they act like they are being tortured at Guantanamo unless we turn the air conditioner to an absolutely freezing 60 degrees (ok, not so freezing outdoors when you are wearing a coat. Feels minus 10 degrees when you are sitting at a keyboard).

These are the people who eat a bunch of crap (and are like food police when they bring in all their unhealthy crap and watch to make sure everyone takes a donut).

Why are there no articles about them? They are the ones who are also destroying the planet when they run air conditioning in January (in New York) while the heat is running and force everyone who is not sick to run a space heater.


I’m always cold unless it’s about 80 degrees outside. AC freezes me. Dr. says all blood work is good. This is not normal. I use to sweat on treadmill, now not at all. This has happened in the last 4 mths. So aggravating.

Sairam says:

Sir I am suffering from cool climate when the climate be cool…I get sweat on my hands face and chest part of the body very huge…I don’t why it is getting…I consulted different types dermatologist..but no use to me… please help me and give reply to my comment..? thanking you..

sairam says:

Sir I get sweat at cool temperature huge..on my hands face and my chest part of the body…I don’t why it is getting I consulted different dermatologists but no use…please give me any suggestions and please reply to my comments sir…?

Jennine Williams says:

I have been cold all my life , compared to everyone else ? Have no medical problems , l am 75 years old , and l have finally realised that l have a super dooper cooling system, where my body heat escapes through the top of my head ! Wearing a hat overcomes this but l dont like hats, AHAH! I BOUGHT A WIG ! PROBLEM SOLVED !!

Rita says:

I’m always cold but wake up at night with the back of my shirt damp and have to change. I’m 70 years olds and started about a year ago but continues to get worse.
When I bring it up @ the Dr. They just kind of go on to the next subject and look at you like your crazy when you say I feel dead inside and am always cold to the touch. I have MVP from having Rheumatic fever at a young age.
My lips would turn blue my parents said when I had popsicles or ice cream.
I warm the house wear fingerless gloves, sweatshirt, long underwear and sweat pants but I’m still cold but also sweat. It’s driving me insane. ANY IDEAS

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