Why Am I Always Cold? Causes and Treatments

Medically Reviewed By Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH
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Maintaining your body temperature, also called thermoregulation, happens by intricate communication through many parts of your body. It is an important part of survival, and the main controller of it all is your hypothalamus, a small area of your brain.   Despite your body’s tight regulation of temperature, you may still have feelings of being cold in environments where others do not feel as cold. This is called cold sensitivity

This article will look at some of the causes that might be making you more sensitive to the cold, as well as looking at related symptoms and treatment.

Why do I feel cold?

woman wrapped in sweater
Ivan Ozerov/Stocksy United

Experts have previously defined cold sensitivity as an exaggerated or atypical reaction to cold exposure. Other symptoms sometimes accompany cold sensitivity, like pain, numbness, or changes in skin color. 

Your body maintains a narrow range of internal temperature between 97–99°F (36.1–37.2°C). It is important to make sure you have the correct clothing in different types of weather, but if you feel cold all the time despite doing this, you may have an underlying medical issue.

Causes

There are many different causes for why you may always feel cold, including environmental causes, medical illnesses, and infections.

Hypothermia

Being in a cold environment is the most common reason a person feels cold. It is important to wear appropriate clothing when in a cold environment to avoid hypothermia. 

When the internal body temperature drops below 95°F (35°C), this is hypothermia. This is a medical emergency.

Symptoms include:

Read more about hypothermia here.

Hypothyroidism

Your thyroid is a little butterfly shaped gland that sits in your neck. It is responsible for making hormones that control how your body uses energy. When your thyroid is not making enough hormones to meet your body’s needs, this is called hypothyroidism.

There are several causes of hypothyroidism, including autoimmune disorders, surgical removal of part of the thyroid, radiation to the thyroid, some medications, or inflammation of the thyroid.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Treatment includes taking medications that will replace the thyroid hormones that your body needs, such as levothyroxine.

Read more about hypothyroidism here.

Anemia

Amenia is the name of the condition in which your blood is not carrying enough oxygen. The cause of anemia can be blood loss, your body not making enough red blood cells, or your red blood cells being destroyed. 

Symptoms of anemia include:

Treatment will depend on finding the cause of the anemia.

Read more about anemia here.

Age

Infants and older adults are more at risk for developing problems regulating their internal body temperatures.

This is because it takes longer for their bodies to increase their metabolism, which would then increase their body temperature.  

It is important to make sure people in these age ranges dress appropriately for their environment. 

Low body weight

Having low amounts of body fat can make you more susceptible to being cold. Body fat is a type of insulation that can help keep you warm. Having less of it will make you feel cold more easily.

Infection

Feeling cold can be a sign that an infection is coming on. It causes rapid muscle contraction and relaxation to try and heat the body, and a fever may also be present.

In the later stages of an untreated infection affecting the whole body, such as in sepsis, a drop in body temperature can happen, causing hypothermia. 

Sepsis is an extreme response to an infection in the body and can cause organ failure, organ death, and potentially loss of life. Sepsis requires immediate medical attention.

Read more about sepsis here.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a disorder of the blood vessels. When exposed to cold environments, the blood vessels constrict, decreasing the blood flow to the fingers, toes, nose, and ears. 

Symptoms include:

  • fingers and toes turning white then blue
  • nose and ears turning white then blue
  • body parts such as ears or fingers turning red after being blue, as blood rushes back into the area

Read more about Raynaud’s phenomenon here.

Hypothalamic dysfunction

Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that controls your body temperature, along with other things, like hunger, mood, thirst, sleep, sex drive, and heart rate.

Injury, genetics, or inflammation can cause hypothalamic dysfunction.

This can have many symptoms because of the different parts of the body it affects. The most common symptoms of hypothalamic dysfunction include:

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the dysfunction. You may need surgery or hormone replacement therapy.

When to contact a doctor

If you continue to feel cold for a considerate amount of time, seek medical advice, as there may be a serious underlying issue.

If you have symptoms of anemia or hypothermia, seek medical attention immediately.

Infections can lead to sepsis and become life threatening, so be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you have further symptoms such as:

Treatment

Treatment for feeling cold depends on the cause. Putting on warm clothing is the most common way to deal with always feeling cold.

  • Hypothermia: Treatment for hypothermia may include oxygen and injecting warm fluids into a vein, depending on the severity.
  • Hypothyroidism: Although there is no cure for hypothyroidism, you can control it. You treat it by replacing the thyroid hormone that your body is lacking.
  • Anemia: Treatment for anemia depends on whether you are lacking in iron or in vitamin B12. Both are present in foods, and you can work with your doctor to ensure you are receiving enough from your diet.
  • Infections: Infections of the body can leave you feeling cold or having chills. Treatment depends on the cause of the infection. A typical treatment for bacterial infections is taking antibiotics. For a viral infection, you would not take an antibiotic.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: Treatment for Raynaud’s includes keeping your body warm and limiting cold exposure, stopping smoking, avoiding caffeine, and avoiding medications that constrict your blood vessels.
  • Hypothalamic dysfunction: Treatment depends on the cause. Surgery, medications, and therapies may treat the disorder.

Summary

There are many different reasons why you may feel cold all the time. Common reasons include your environment, but more severe reasons could be an infection or an underlying medical disorder that may require treatment.

If you feel cold, particularly for an extended period of time such as a couple of days, be sure to seek medical advice.

If you have accompanying symptoms such as feeling breathless or confused, seek immediate medical care, as this may be an indication of a more serious underlying issue, such as sepsis.

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Medical Reviewer: Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH
Last Review Date: 2022 May 12
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