If you always feel cold, no matter how many clothes you pile on or how high you crank up the heat, it may simply mean you prefer warmer climates and sunnier days. But if you get cold easily, or seem to complain about it more than others, it may also be a sign of a health issue.
“One of the best ways to gauge if your cold is ‘normal’ is by seeing how others around you feel temperature-wise,” Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. “If you’re always the only one who is cold in a room it could be a sign of an underlying issue.”
Your perpetual coldness may be a bodily quirk you’ve grown to accept. But it’s still worth looking into a few possible health issues that can make you feel cold, especially if you have other worrisome symptoms. “Your body uses temperature as a signal that something is wrong,” Backe says. “Think of it like an alarm bell going off in the body to get your attention.”
It’s fine if you feel cold occasionally. And it’s obviously common to be chilly on a blustery day. But if you’re always cold, or seem to get cold more easily than others, let your doctor know. Here are some of the health issues your chilliness may be pointing to, according to experts.
If you tend to feel like a human popsicle, no matter how many blankets you pile on top of yourself, it could be a sign of iron deficiency anemia — especially if you have icy hands and feet.
“Anemia is one of the most common causes of chronic coldness, caused by a deficiency in iron, [which prevents] red blood cells from carrying sufficient oxygen through the body,” Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle. “As a result, your circulatory system can’t properly transport warm blood to your extremities.” So you’ll feel cold all the time.
Other symptoms of anemia include ongoing fatigue, dizziness, paleness, weakness, and an irregular heartbeat. Some forms of anemia are hereditary, but women can also suffer from iron-deficiency anemia due to menstruation and pregnancy.
Your doctor can do a blood test to determine if you’re anemic, and suggest the right course of action.
If you have hypothyroidism, otherwise known as an underactive thyroid, you might feel chilly even on the warmest days.
That’s because the thyroid gland affects and is affected by the hypothalamus, “which is a gland at the base of the brain that controls our temperature and our perception of our temperature,” Dr. Richard Honaker, MD, tells Bustle. “Our endocrine organs (metabolism glands and thyroid gland) secret chemicals that affect the hypothalamus and vice versa […] It can be a signal from your body to get a check up and some lab work.”
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, dry skin, thinning hair, depression, and impaired memory. So if that sounds familiar, let a doctor know.
“Undiagnosed cancer can result in feeling cold, chills, weakness,” family and emergency medicine doctor, Janette Nesheiwat, MD, tells Bustle. But it’s important not to jump to this conclusion, simply because you’re chilly.
The best thing to do, if you’re concerned, is to make an appointment with your doctor. “See you doctor for regular routine visits, exams (i.e., mammograms, colonoscopy, regular blood work),” Dr. Nesheiwat says. “This is how we can pick up disease early […] Prevention and early detection of disease is key to better prognosis.”
If you have diabetes, you might struggle with feeling cold all the time, due to the way the disease affects your circulation. As Dr. Nesheiwat says, diabetes can damage blood vessels over time, which results in poor blood flow, and eventually feelings of coldness and even pain.
Severe diabetes can also lead to kidney damage, known as diabetic nephropathy. Symptoms of diabetic nephropathy include feeling cold all the time, as well as itchiness, loss of appetite, and nausea. But it’s important to not panic, and instead talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Believe it or not, anxiety can cause you to feel cold all the time — but especially so in moments of panic. “If you feel cold, if you are shivering, you could be cold, you could be ill. But you also could be nervous or anxious,” clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, PhD, tells Bustle. “When we are nervous our muscles tense, the blood is restricted to our vital organs, and we can literally feel cold.”
If your body is rundown with an infection, you may start o feel cold, Dr. Nesheiwat says. You might have a case of the chills, or feel like you can’t get warm, even when you’re under a lot of blankets. This is a cry for help from your body to rest and take better care of yourself.
To help prevent bacterial and viral infections — such as the flu — you should “stay up-to-date with vaccines, immunizations, [and] get enough sleep,” Dr. Nesheiwat says. Doing so will bolster your immune system, so you’ll be less likely to get sick.
If you have a condition called Raynaud’s disease, you may experience coldness and numbness in your extremities to a more intense degree than others.
“Raynaud’s is a condition in which the peripheral blood vessels constrict too much in response to a cold environment,” Dr. Aaron Clark, a family medicine physician, tells Bustle. “Raynaud’s can be just a normal response to cold, but, in some people, it creates too strong of a constriction in the blood vessels in their hands or feet. The fingers might turn white and then purple or blue because they aren’t getting enough blood.”
So if your hands and feet appear to “overreact” to temperature changes, you may want to see a doctor. “Eventually the fingers or toes will turn red once the blood vessel constricting stops and the hands or feet start to warm back up,” Dr. Clark says. “[But this] reduced blood flow can cause damage in some people. Severe Raynaud’s can lead to skin breakdown and ulcerations on the skin of the fingers or toes.”
If you have an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, you might be more prone to being cold than others, Dr. Nesheiwat says.
Other symptoms of lupus, which is also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, include achy joints, unexplained fever, face rashes, hair loss, and pain in the chest when breathing deeply.
Whenever you’re dehydrated, the body begins to direct blood flow to the most important areas, such as your heart, brain, and lungs, Dr. Nesheiwat says. Your skin, toes, nose, fingertips, and other non-vital bits will have less circulation, and feel colder as a result. So if you’re always cold in these areas, dehydration may be why.
The remedy for this is simple: drink more water. You can always shoot for the classic eight glasses of water a day, but the real barometer should be your thirst levels. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so stay on top it by drinking throughout the day.
It might not seem like a big deal to feel cold easily, but since it can be your body’s way of alerting you to a problem, it’s important to listen. If you’re always cold, and you have other worrisome symptoms, be sure to get checked out by your doctor.