Read below about cold intolerance, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your cold intolerance from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Sensitivity to coldness

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Cold Intolerance Symptoms

Cold intolerance is unusual sensitivity to cold temperatures. Most people do not enjoy cold temperatures to begin with, but those experiencing cold intolerance find it even more difficult to achieve a comfortable body temperature regardless of the situation. Cold intolerance can signal an underlying problem that requires treatment [1,2].

People with cold intolerance may feel:

  • Cold despite the weather and often feel cold when others around them feel comfortable.
  • Cold only in specific parts of the body such as the hands or feet.
  • Cold that does not resolve despite adding extra layers of clothing.

Cold Intolerance Causes Overview

Temperature regulation is controlled by different parts of the body. The hypothalamus, thyroid gland, body fat, blood vessels and skin all work closely together to control body temperature and adapt to various situations [3].

When there is dysregulation or imbalance in any of these systems, cold intolerance can occur. It is important to see your doctor and pinpoint the exact cause of your cold intolerance symptoms.

Central causes

  • Central causes of cold intolerance include dysregulation in brain processes that control body temperature. For example, the hypothalamus is a structure located in the brain that acts as the body's central thermometer for regulating body temperature. Disorders of the hypothalamus can cause cold intolerance.

Metabolic causes

  • The body relies on metabolic processes to maintain proper body temperature. There are many different metabolic processes in the body and the two below are most important for preventing cold intolerance.

  • Hormone synthesis: The thyroid gland is a very important organ in the regulation of temperature because it makes hormones that allow your body to burn calories and create heat and fuel. A malfunctioning thyroid or disorder that affects hormone synthesis can cause cold intolerance [4].

  • Fat synthesis: It may not be the most fun topic, but fat is necessary to maintain the heat your body creates. Any condition that significantly decreases your body fat can lead to cold intolerance because your body has no means of maintaining the heat it creates.

Hematologic causes

Hematologic causes are related to cold intolerance because blood and how it flows is important for spreading heat throughout your body.

  • Vascular Disorders: Conditions that affect the blood vessels and cause constriction can prevent blood flow to parts of the body that leads to cold intolerance. The vessels in the hands and feet are particularly susceptible to such constriction.
  • Quantitative Disorders: Any condition that affects the body's ability to produce red blood cells (the quantity of red blood cells) can lead to cold intolerance symptoms because your body does not have enough blood to reach the parts of the body.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Cold Intolerance

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced cold intolerance. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Lupus

    Lupus is a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. This can damage joints, skin, blood vessels and organs.

    Lupus is a chronic condition but symptoms can be managed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, anxiety, depressed mood, joint pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Postpartum Thyroiditis

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just above the collarbone, which produces hormones that control how fast calories are burned and how fast the heart beats. Postpartum thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid gland that occurs in women about 1 year after the delivery of a baby. This condition occurs in two phases. In the first phase, too much thyroid hormone is produced leading to rapid weight loss and a fast heartbeat. After 2-4 months, the second phase begins which may last up to a year, and is characterized by thyroid levels that are too low. Symptoms in the second phase include weight gain, fatigue, depression, and hair loss.

    Usually will resolve itself, but in some cases, lifelong hypothyroidism may develop requiring lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, racing heart beat
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  4. 4.Anorexia

    Eating disorders are serious behavioral problems. They can include severe overeating, or not consuming enough food to stay healthy. They also involve extreme concern about your shape or weight. Anorexia nervosa is a condition where people have an intense fear about how their body looks and how much they weigh, leading to severe caloric restriction.

    80% of people will get better with years of effective counseling and therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, decreased sex drive, frequent mood swings
    Symptoms that always occur with anorexia:
    fear of gaining weight
    Symptoms that never occur with anorexia:
    heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Sheehan's Syndrome

    Sheehan's syndrome is a complication of excess blood loss or low pressure during delivery. It causes a decrease in necessary hormones.

    Lifelong condition but symptoms are well managed with hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, irregular period, unintentional weight loss, hair loss
    Symptoms that always occur with sheehan's syndrome:
    complications during pregnancy
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Influenza

    Influenza, or Flu, is an infection of the airway caused by the flu virus, which passes through the air and enters the body through the nose or mouth. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the flu is usually more serious.

    Most recover within 1 week but cough and malaise can persist for 2 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, cough, muscle aches
    Symptoms that never occur with influenza:
    headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

Cold Intolerance Treatments and Relief

Many people with cold intolerance symptoms often find that at-home remedies and suggestions, such as using a heater or wearing warmer clothes, do not work. This is because most causes of cold intolerance require professional evaluation and treatment.

Cold intolerance is a symptom of an underlying condition, and treatment depends on the cause. ### After determining the cause of your cold intolerance your doctor may suggest: ###

  • Hormone replacement: Hormones are key players in the regulation of body temperature. If your cold intolerance is due to hormone imbalance, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate hormone(s), such as thyroid replacement, to get your body back on track.
  • Medications to relax blood vessels: There are many kinds of medication that can combat constriction in your blood vessels by dilating (relaxing) them and promoting circulation.
  • Supplements: Deficiencies in iron and certain vitamins can lead to decreased blood production.Your doctor may prescribe supplements if your cold intolerance is caused by a condition that affects blood cell production in this manner.
  • Rehabilitation program: If your cold intolerance is related to conditions that cause significantly decreased body fat percentage, your doctor may suggest a rehabilitation program to help you gain weight safely and healthily.

FAQs About Cold Intolerance

Here are some frequently asked questions about cold intolerance.

Is dehydration causing my cold intolerance?

While severe dehydration may lead to cold, clammy extremities, mild to moderate dehydration generally will not contribute to cold intolerance. Your body is able to compensate for mild to moderate dehydration and maintain blood flow and adequate temperature quite effectively. Cold intolerance is usually due to other conditions such as hypothyroidism, severe illness, or circulatory problems.

Why is cold intolerance common with hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism occurs when you have low levels of thyroid hormone in your body, usually due to problems with your thyroid, a gland in your neck. Thyroid hormone is responsible for stimulating metabolism. Metabolism, in general, is the work done by your tissues to keep you alive and moving at a functional pace. Your body produces heat as a byproduct of metabolism. Thus, lower thyroid hormone leads to lower metabolism, which leads to less heat production and poor tolerance of the cold (other symptoms of hyypothyrodism include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, thin hair, weakness, constipation, depression and joint pain).

Why am I always tired and cold?

Fatigue and cold intolerance are commonly associated with hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when your body has low levels of the hormones made by your thyroid, a gland in your neck. Many diseases can cause your thyroid to function poorly and up to 2 percent of the population have hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is also associated with weight gain, constipation, dry skin, muscle aches, changes in your menstrual cycle, and a slow heart rate.

Why are my teeth sensitive to the cold?

Your teeth have nerves which can be irritated by cold temperature, especially ice. These nerves are hidden away in the deeper layers and roots of your teeth. When exposed, these nerves are set off by temperature changes. This may occur due to damage to the teeth from brushing too hard, teeth grinding, plaque build-up, acidic foods, vomiting. or trauma to the teeth. Diseases of the gums can also lead to tooth sensitivity, such as gum recession, and gingivitis.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Cold Intolerance

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?
  • Q.Do you have dry skin?
  • Q.Are you having difficulty concentrating or thinking through daily activities?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our cold intolerance symptom checker to find out more.

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Cold Intolerance Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced cold intolerance have also experienced:

    • 8% Fatigue
    • 4% Headache
    • 4% Nausea
  • People who have experienced cold intolerance were most often matched with:

    • 33% Hypothyroidism
    • 33% Lupus
    • 33% Postpartum Thyroiditis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Martin LJ. Cold Intolerance. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated February 18, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Zyluk A. Cold Intolerance Syndrome - A Review. Chirurgia Narzadow Ruchu i Ortopedia Polska. 2006;71(2):97-102. NCBI Link.
  3. Osilla EV, Sharma S. Physiology, Temperature Regulation. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2018. NCBI Link.
  4. El-Shafie KT. Clinical Presentation of Hypothyroidism. Journal of Family & Community Medicine. 2003;10(1):55-58. NCBI Link.
  5. Brown FE, Jobe JB, Hamlet M, Rubright A. Induced Vasodilation in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Digital Cold Intolerance. The Journal of Hand Surgery. 1986;11(3):382-387. NCBI Link.