You may get cold easily due to certain health conditions, including anemia, dehydration, or vitamin deficiency. Treatment can depend on the cause.
Everyone’s body has a slightly different reaction to cold, and some people feel cold more often than others. This is called cold intolerance.
Gender can play a part in cold intolerance. Women are more likely to feel cold all the time, in part because they have a lower resting metabolic rate. This means they naturally generate less energy, or body heat. A
But if you feel cold all the time despite layering up and taking other steps to stay warm, you could have an underlying condition that’s causing this feeling. Read on to learn why you might always feel cold, plus get some guidance on how to address this discomfort.
Symptoms of a permanent cold sensation
A constant cold sensation might simply leave you feeling cold all over. You might also notice:
- tingling or numbness in your hands, fingers, feet, and toes
- frequent shivering
- discomfort at temperatures others find comfortable
- stiffness in your limbs
- particularly cold hands and feet
If your coldness has an underlying cause, you might also notice some symptoms related to that condition. We’ll explore those in more detail below.
Always feeling cold can happen for a number of reasons, and these potential causes can involve a range of different symptoms. You might consider some symptoms no more than minor annoyances, but others might happen as a sign of a more serious underlying condition.
Anemia, in basic terms, means you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. This common condition might develop when:
- your body doesn’t make enough red blood cells
- your body destroys these cells
- you experience heavy bleeding
Anemia can be severe, especially if it’s long lasting.
Iron deficiency anemia, the most common type of anemia, can develop when your body doesn’t have the iron it needs to make enough healthy red blood cells. Causes include:
Symptoms of anemia can depend on the underlying cause, but they often include:
- cold hands and feet
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
- chest pain
With hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone to allow your body to use and regulate the energy it needs to operate. This condition can become serious if not treated. There’s no cure, but medication can help reduce and control your symptoms.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary, but often include:
- dry skin
- weight gain
With atherosclerosis, your blood vessels narrow because of plaque buildup. There are several different types, but peripheral artery disease most commonly causes a cold feeling. Peripheral artery disease is the narrowing of arteries that carry blood to your limbs, organs, and head.
Other symptoms include:
- pain, numbness, and cramping in your legs, buttocks, and feet after activity
- a weak pulse in your legs and feet
- slow healing of wounds on your legs and feet
- a bluish tint to skin
- decreased hair growth on your legs
- decreased toenail growth
Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon is a rare condition that causes your blood vessels — usually in your fingers and toes — to narrow when you get cold or stressed. The affected area may become pale or blue and feel cold, since blood can’t travel there as it typically would. When the blood comes back, the area turns red and often throbs.
The cause of primary Raynaud’s disease is unknown. Secondary Raynaud’s disease can happen due to injury or an underlying condition.
Raynaud’s disease is most common in:
- people older than 30
- people who live in cold climates
- people with a family history of the condition
Diabetes can cause kidney and circulation issues that make you feel cold. Without proper treatment, diabetes can also cause nerve damage that makes you feel cold, particularly in your feet.
Type 2 diabetes may involve milder symptoms than type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also more likely to cause a cold feeling.
Other symptoms of diabetes include:
- urinating often
- extreme thirst or hunger
- blurry vision
- slow wound healing
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of your own weight.
While some people with anorexia might have an unusually low body weight and severely restrict their food intake, not everyone with this eating disorder will appear thin or underweight.
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- extreme weight loss
- soft hair growth covering your body
- thinning hair on head
- infrequent or stopped menstrual periods
- dry or yellow skin
- low blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- emotional and behavioral symptoms, such as an intense fear of weight gain, irritability, an intense urge to exercise, and social withdrawal
Low body weight
Low body weight refers to a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5. Often, having a lower BMI means your body isn’t insulated with fat, so it can’t keep you as warm.
Sometimes, low body weight happens due to an underlying cause, such as hyperthyroidism. If that’s the case for you, you’ll probably notice other related symptoms.
Low body weight can also lead to:
- a weakened immune system
- nutritional deficiencies
- fertility issues, especially for people with uteruses
Poor circulation means you have reduced blood flow to your limbs. Typically, poor circulation relates to other health conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions.
Other possible signs include:
- tingling and numbness in your limbs and extremities (hands and feet)
- pain in limbs
- muscle cramps
Vitamin B12 deficiency
A vitamin B12 deficiency can happen when you either can’t absorb B12 or don’t get enough of it through your diet. It most commonly affects people who:
- follow a vegan diet
- are 50 years or older
- have had gastrointestinal surgery
- have digestive issues
- constipation or diarrhea
- shortness of breath
- loss of appetite
- pale appearance
- shortness of breath
- loss of balance
- tingling and numbness in your limbs
Many people get enough vitamin B12 by eating animal products, including meat, fish, and dairy. But you can also get this essential vitamin from fortified vegan products and supplements.
These 12 foods are high in vitamin B12.
Complications of medications
Feeling cold all the time can also happen as a potential side effect of beta-blockers, medications that treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.
Other possible side effects of beta blockers include:
Priyanka Costa Hennis, MD, a fellow in medicine/clinical informatics at the University of Arizona, notes a few other medications that may cause you to feel cold, including:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications, including dextroamphetamine/amphetamine (Adderall)
- migraine medications containing ergotamine
- decongestants, including pseudoephedrine
Your body needs to stay hydrated to function as it should, so you’ll want to replenish your fluids during the day.
“When you are dehydrated, your body causes constriction of the blood vessels in order to conserve the water in the body,” Hennis says. She explains that it’s particularly important to remember to drink enough water during the winter — it’s easy to forget when you don’t sweat as much.
Hennis generally recommends at least 50 ounces, or about 6 cups, per day.
A doctor or other healthcare professional can help determine whether you feel cold due to an underlying medical or condition, or if you simply have a lower cold tolerance.
To get more information about your medical history and any possible health concerns, a healthcare professional might ask:
- What are your symptoms and when did they start?
- Has your cold intolerance changed over time?
- What kind of diet do you eat?
- How is your general health?
- Have you started any new medications or had any other health changes recently?
They’ll likely also conduct a physical exam, including taking your height and weight.
Depending on your other symptoms, they may also order blood tests to check your:
- red blood cell levels
- blood glucose
- thyroid hormone
Feeling cold constantly is uncomfortable, but you do have options for warming up, including these expert-backed tips and tricks.
How to warm up
If you’re always cold, you can warm up by wrapping up in a blanket, adding more clothing layers, or turning up the heat.
When these strategies don’t make much of a difference, try addressing some of the underlying causes:
- Take a nap or go to sleep earlier if you think you might be sleep-deprived.
- Aim to eat a balanced diet if you think you might be anemic or have a nutritional deficiency. A balanced diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat.
- Take steps to help relieve stress in your daily life.
- Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. Try drinking warm water or herbal tea to warm up. You can also eat foods, such as melons and apples, that have high concentrations of water.
- Speak with your doctor. If you think your medication is triggering your coldness, Hennis recommends asking about the dosage.
- Try physical activity. Exercise can warm the body and get your blood flowing, Hennis says. Try walking, yoga, and stretching for some light activity.
Treating a persistent cold sensation
Still can’t seem to get warm? It may be a good idea to connect with a healthcare professional.
Doctors will usually treat the condition behind your persistent cold feeling to help improve all of the symptoms you experience.
Potential treatments for different conditions include:
- Anemia. You might need to take iron supplements or make some changes in your diet. Severe anemia might require a blood transfusion. Your doctor can also help treat any condition causing the anemia.
- Hypothyroidism. Your care team will typically prescribe replacement thyroid hormones.
- Atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes, including dietary changes and exercise, can help treat this condition. You may need surgery to address a serious artery blockage.
- Raynaud’s disease. Lifestyle changes to help you stay warm and lower stress can make a difference.
- Diabetes. You’ll need to manage your blood sugar with a balanced diet and exercise. In some cases, you might need medication, such as insulin. It’s also important to take good care of your feet, which can involve keeping them warm.
- Anorexia nervosa. This condition requires treatment from a trained professional. Treatment typically includes both therapy and nutritional care. Severe anorexia may require inpatient treatment.
- Low body weight. A nutritionist can help you develop a personalized plan to put on weight by eating nourishing foods and getting regular physical activity.
- Poor circulation. Treatment generally involves treating the underlying cause, but items like compression stockings may also have benefit.
- B12 deficiency. You can change your diet to incorporate more B12 foods or take supplements.
- Complications of medications. The prescribing doctor or clinician can offer guidance on adjusting your dose or finding an alternative medication.
- Dehydration. A healthcare professional may recommend rehydrating by drinking plenty of water and a low-sugar sports drink that contains electrolytes. If you can’t keep fluids down, they may prescribe intravenous (IV) fluids.
If your cold intolerance persists despite your efforts to address it on your own, it’s wise to reach out to a healthcare professional.
Generally speaking, it’s time to reach out for professional support if you experience other symptoms along with persistent coldness, including:
- tingling in your hands or feet
- extreme fatigue
- unexplained weight loss
You’ll want to make an appointment with a healthcare professional right away if you have symptoms of diabetes, hypothyroidism, or anemia. These conditions can become serious if untreated.
Hennis also recommends reaching out to a doctor immediately if you experience:
- numbness of the skin
- throbbing pain in your extremities
Will you feel freezing cold forever? Ultimately, Hennis says the outlook of constant coldness will depend on the trigger. For example, conditions such as anemia and diabetes can be treated, but not cured. If your coldness relates to these conditions, you could continue to feel cold from time to time.
But other times, treating chronic coldness is a quicker fix. You may simply need to remember to hydrate or ask your doctor to adjust your medication.
Regardless of the trigger for your coldness, you can likely take some steps to remain more comfortable, including:
- dressing in layers
- keeping hydrated
- talking with a healthcare professional about any lingering health symptoms or concerns
If you’re always feeling cold, you might just have a lower cold tolerance. But coldness can also happen with underlying health concerns, many of which can improve with treatment.
If your cold intolerance doesn’t seem to improve, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a healthcare professional — especially if you have symptoms that could relate to a more serious health condition.