Symptoms A-Z

Coldness Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your coldness symptoms with Buoy, including 4 causes and common questions concerning your coldness.

An image depicting a person suffering from coldness symptoms

Coldness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your coldness

Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 4 Possible Coldness Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  6. Statistics
  7. References

Coldness Symptoms

Coldness, quite literally, is the condition of being at a low temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), and the human body has various mechanisms in place that regulate this body temperature and prevent the body from becoming too cold or too hot.

There are various environmental situations that challenge the body's regulatory mechanisms against cold — for example, wintertime or even an excessively air-conditioned room. Feeling cold in such situations is such a normal response that, most times, the body can easily resolve. However, there are some situations in which your body is unable to adapt and bring your body temperature back to normal. When your body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it, you will begin to feel symptoms of coldness you can't shake. If your body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) this is a condition known as hypothermia [1].

Common accompanying symptoms of coldness are

Depending on how long your body remains at this low temperature, in addition to a generalized sensation of coldness, you may also experience:

Hypothermia can be extremely dangerous. At very low temperatures, your organs cannot work properly, and if left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete heart and respiratory failure and ultimately death.

Call 911 immediately if you notice any symptoms, especially excessive shivering [2]. Once you develop symptoms of confusion and fatigue, you may find it difficult to think clearly and get the appropriate care.

Coldness Causes

Most causes of coldness are related to environmental triggers such as exposure to cold weather or water, but there are many medical conditions that either disrupt the body's natural mechanisms or put the body at risk for losing heat when exposed to cold situations.

Environmental causes

Environmental causes are quite literally related to the environment that you are spending time in as well as certain habits.

  • Cold weather or water: Cold weather is an obvious cause, but many people often underestimate how such conditions can affect the body. Water that can cause coldness symptoms might not necessarily need to feel extremely cold; any water that is less than normal body temperature can cause rapid heat loss. Most people cannot willingly stand such temperatures for prolonged periods of time and will quickly get out of the water. But for those who fall off of a boat or find themselves stranded in a large body of water, quick escape is often not an option.
  • Inappropriate attire: Wearing clothes that aren't warm enough for weather or water conditions can easily cause coldness symptoms. Conversely, being unable to remove wet clothes promptly and change into warm clothes can cause coldness and its associated symptoms as well.
  • Inappropriate living conditions: Houses that are improperly heated, especially during wintertime, can cause these coldness symptoms in at-risk populations such as infants and the elderly.

Systemic symptoms

Systemic causes of coldness may be related to the following.

  • Central: The brain is the central control center for body temperature. Central causes of coldness result from dysregulation in these brain processes. For example, disorders of the hypothalamus can cause coldness because the body cannot mount proper responses [3].
  • Metabolic: The body relies on metabolic processes to maintain proper body temperature. Disruption in process that synthesizes important metabolic hormones such as insulin and thyroid hormones can cause coldness symptoms.
  • Fat synthesis: Fat is necessary to maintain the heat your body creates. Any condition that significantly decreases your body fat can lead to feelings of coldness because your body has no means of maintaining the heat it creates.

4 Possible Coldness Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced coldness. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or "underactive thyroid," means that the thyroid gland in the neck does not produce enough of its hormones. This causes a slowing of the body's metabolism.

The condition can occur due to autoimmune disease; any surgery or radiation treatment to the thyroid gland; some medications; pregnancy; or consuming too much or too little iodine. It is often found among older women with a family history of the disease.

Common symptoms include fatigue, constantly feeling cold, weight gain, slow heart rate, and depression. If left untreated, these and other symptoms can worsen until they lead to very low blood pressure and body temperature, and even coma.

Diagnosis is made through a simple blood test.

Hypothyroidism is easily managed with daily oral medication. The patient usually starts feeling better after a couple of weeks and may even lose some extra weight. It's important for the patient to be monitored by a doctor and have routine blood testing so that the medication can be kept at the correct levels.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Diabetic hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia (severely low blood sugar) can occur in Type 1 (more common) and Type 2 Diabetes. It is usually caused by poorly timed use of blood-sugar-controlling medication.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fatigue, irritability, anxiety, dizziness, racing heart beat

Symptoms that always occur with diabetic hypoglycemia: being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Coldness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your coldness

Mild hypothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celcius.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, coldness, pale skin, turning blue or purple from coldness, shivering

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Moderate to severe hypothermia

With prolonged exposure to freezing cold, the body can lose the ability to maintain a safe core temperature. If this continues for long enough, you can become confused or even lose consciousness

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: coldness, alertness level change, pale skin, slow heartrate (under 60bpm)

Symptoms that never occur with moderate to severe hypothermia: shivering

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Coldness Treatments and Relief

There are many preventative methods you can utilize to prevent low body temperature, detailed below [4].

When to see a doctor

If you're experiencing persistent coldness not indicative of hypothermia, you should still see a doctor. Hormones are key players in the regulation of body temperature. If your cold symptoms are due to hormone imbalance, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate hormone(s) to get your body back on track.

When it is an emergency

If you experience symptoms of hypothermia, call 911 immediately. Meanwhile, do as many of the following as possible.

  • Move from the cold
  • Cover yourself or the affected person with blankets
  • Remove wet clothing
  • Drink warm beverages that are non-caffeinated and nonalcoholic
  • But do NOT apply direct heat: Methods such as heating pads or hot water can damage the skin or, more importantly, cause irregular heart rhythms that can cause the heart to stop.

Once you are in medical care

Medical treatment for coldness caused by environmental factors includes rewarming processes such as the following.

  • Passive: Passive methods for rewarming include strategies such as blankets and warm fluids [5].
  • Blood: More aggressive methods include warm IV fluids and hemodialysis — a process that can be used to allow warm blood to be re-circulated in the body.
  • Airway: Warmed oxygen via a mask or nasal tube can warm the airways and help raise body temperature.

Prevention

Developed by the Mayo Clinic, the acronym COLD — cover, overexertion, layers, dry — is an excellent way to remember the different methods you can use to protect yourself and your family from potentially life-threatening cold exposure.

  • Cover: Wear a hat or other protective clothing to prevent body heat from escaping the head, face, and neck. Use mittens instead of gloves to cover your hands.
  • Overexertion: In cold weather, avoid activities like running or jumping that cause sweating. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause your body to lose heat more quickly.
  • Layers: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. For inner layers, choose materials such as wool, silk, or polypropylene — these materials hold body heat better than cotton does.
  • Dry: Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible and try to stay as dry as possible. Pay special attention to your hands and feet, as these body parts can easily get wet again.

Unfortunately, there is no acronym for cold-water situations, but the reasoning remains the same. Stay as warm as possible and minimize heat loss. Wear life jackets, do not remove clothing, huddle with others, and try to move as little as possible — for example, do not attempt to swim to safety unless you are close to land, or you will expend unnecessary energy and body heat.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Coldness

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Has any part of your body become paler than normal?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • What color is your cold area?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your coldness

Coldness Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced coldness have also experienced:

  • 8% Hand Numbness
  • 6% Tingling Foot
  • 6% Pale Skin

People who have experienced coldness were most often matched with:

  • 40% Diabetic Hypoglycemia
  • 40% Mild Hypothermia
  • 20% Hypothyroidism

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Coldness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your coldness

References

  1. Hypothermia. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated Aug. 22, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  2. Hypothermia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated Dec. 20, 2016. CDC Link
  3. Hypothalamic Dysfunction. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. GARD Link
  4. Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults. National Institute on Aging. Reviewed Jan. 1, 2018. NIA Link
  5. Scaravilli V, Bonacina D, Citerio G. Rewarming: facts and myths from the systemic perspective. Crit Care. 2012;16(Suppl 2):A25. NCBI Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.