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.
Depending on how long your body remains at this low temperature, in addition to a generalized sensation of coldness, you may also experience:
- Weak pulse
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Lack of coordination
- Confusion/ memory loss
- Low energy
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. Once you develop symptoms of confusion and fatigue, you may find it difficult to think clearly and get the appropriate care.
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.
- 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.
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.
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 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 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.
- Top Symptoms:
- fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
- Primary care doctor
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.
- Top Symptoms:
- fatigue, irritability, anxiety, dizziness, racing heart beat
- Symptoms that always occur with diabetic hypoglycemia:
- being severely ill
- Hospital emergency room
Coldness Symptom Checker
Take a quiz to find out why you’re having coldness.Coldness Quiz
Hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celcius.
With treatment, symptoms resolve within days.
- Ultra rare
- Top Symptoms:
- fatigue, coldness, pale skin, turning blue or purple from coldness, shivering
- Hospital emergency room
4.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
If hypothermia is severe enough, death or permanent disability can occur
- Ultra rare
- Top Symptoms:
- coldness, alertness level change, pale skin, slow heartrate (under 60bpm)
- Symptoms that never occur with moderate to severe hypothermia:
- Emergency medical service
Coldness Treatments, Relief and Prevention
There are many preventative methods you can utilize to prevent low body temperature.
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 family from this potentially life-threatening condition
- 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.
However, if you do experience such symptoms, call 911 immediately.
While waiting for medical attention:
- 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.
Medical treatment for coldness caused by environmental factors includes rewarming processes:
- Passive: Passive methods for rewarming include strategies such as blankets and warm fluids.
- 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 mask or nasal tube can warm the airways and help raise body temperature.
Medical treatment for more systemic causes of coldness includes:
- Hormone replacement: 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.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Coldness
- Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
- Q.Has any part of your body become paler than normal?
- Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
- Q.What color is your cold area?
If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our coldness symptom checker to find out more.Coldness Quiz
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”).