Getting a Cold Nose
It isn’t uncommon for people to experience cold feet, cold hands, or even cold ears. You may also have experienced getting a cold nose.
There are many reasons why you could get a cold nose. Chances are that it’s for very ordinary reasons and is nothing to worry about — other times, the cause could be serious.
Here are the most common reasons for your cold nose.
You might just be too cold
Getting cold extremities isn’t uncommon. It generally takes longer for blood to circulate to your hands, feet, and nose. When it gets especially cold, more blood flows to the center of your body, to keep organs functioning, than to your extremities.
In cold conditions, your body senses temperature change and activates a cold response to conserve heat and energy: blood vessels located in the outermost parts of your body and skin (especially your hands, feet, ears, and nose) narrow, which reduces blood flow to these areas and brings more warm blood to your internal organs (brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and intestines).
This strategy also keeps your blood warmer overall since the blood stays away from areas of your body where it might be chilled by being exposed to cold.
Also, the outer parts of the human nose are composed of mostly cartilage tissue covered by a relatively thin layer of skin and minimal amounts of insulating fat, so the nose becomes cold much more easily than the legs or belly. (Ears have a similar problem! This is why many snow dwelling animals have short, fur-covered ears and noses to protect them from damage).
Another common reason for a cold nose is reduced blood flow to the skin of the nose. If your nose feels cold for much longer than the rest of your body, you may have reduced blood flow to your nose.
There are many causes for reduced circulation, and it may be a sign of another health issue — although, for most people, a cold nose isn’t related to any major health problem.
Thyroid hormones are very important regulators of your body’s metabolism. A condition called hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid disorder, may make your body think that it is cold, even when it isn’t.
In this low thyroid hormone state, the body tries to take steps to conserve heat and energy, thus causing many slow metabolism symptoms, including a cold nose. Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune hypothyroid issue, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- constant tiredness
- weight gain
- aching or weak muscles and joints
- hair loss
- dry and itchy skin
- general cold intolerance (feeling cold even when you’re in a warm place)
See your doctor if you suspect you have thyroid problems. Learn more about hypothyroidism.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is an exaggeration of the body’s normal cold response. It causes local blood vessels in the extremities to narrow dramatically for short periods of time before returning to normal.
The hands and feet are most commonly affected, but it can also occur in the ears and nose. It can be caused by autoimmune disorders like lupus or occur on its own without any known underlying disease. Raynaud’s can also be triggered by emotional stress.
Other symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon include:
- discoloration: white or bluish color in extremities — in nose, fingers, toes, or ears
- numbness, tingling, and sometimes pain
- feeling of coldness in a particular area that can last for minutes or hours
Visit your doctor if you suspect Raynaud’s. Learn more about the condition here.
Other chronic diseases
You may also suffer from low blood circulation to your nose if you have certain chronic conditions that further reduce blood flow in your body, decrease the oxygen levels in your blood, or cause your heart to not pump effectively or efficiently.
High blood sugar
This is typically related to diabetes, though not always. Diabetes, if severe and left untreated, can lead to serious circulation issues. Diabetics (type 1 or type 2) are at great risk of nerve damage and blood vessel damage in their extremities if they don’t take care of themselves during bouts of high blood sugar.
Other symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- wounds that have difficulty healing
- frequent urination
- excessive hunger or thirst
- blurry vision
- high blood pressure
- numbness, “pins and needles” sensation, or tingling, in the extremities, especially in the feet
- unexpected weight loss
See your doctor if you suspect that you may have or be developing diabetes. Learn more about high blood sugar.
Poor heart health can lead to poor circulation, with a cold nose being a possible sign. Heart diseases like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), weak heart muscles (cardiomyopathy), and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) can greatly weaken circulation to the extremities.
Other symptoms of heart disease include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
- chest pain, especially with exercise
- losing your breath while walking up one flight of stairs or down the block
- swelling in the feet or ankles
See a doctor immediately if you suspect a heart attack. Read about heart attack warning signs.
If you’ve been exposed to extremely cold temperatures — especially for too long in freezing water or windy, cold weather — a cold nose may signal the beginnings of frostnip or frostbite.
Your nose may be one of the most susceptible of your body parts to frostbite if left exposed, along with your hands and feet.
Other symptoms of frostbite include:
- prickly or tingling sensation
- numb and painful skin
- discoloration on nose (red, white, gray, yellow, or black skin)
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience these. Learn more about frostbite.
If you have symptoms of frostbite or heart attack, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t just try to treat the cold nose at home.
Discuss symptoms of thyroid problems, heart disease, diabetes, or Raynaud’s with your doctor to find the correct diagnosis and treatment.
If you think your cold nose is simply due to being cold, here are some ways to warm it up:
- Warm compress. Heat water. Saturate a clean rag and apply it to your nose until your nose warms up. Make sure you heat the water to a pleasant temperature — not to boiling — to prevent burning yourself.
- Drink a hot beverage. Drinking a hot beverage like tea can help warm you up. You can even let the steam from the mug warm your nose.
- Wear a scarf or balaclava. If you’re going outside in the cold and exposed to frigid temperatures, make sure to wrap up. That includes your nose. A big scarf over your face or even a balaclava helps prevent a cold nose.
If you get a cold nose, it could be caused by being cold. You may need to wear warmer clothes or get better winter accessories, especially if you experience your cold nose when you’re outdoors.
Otherwise, a cold nose could be a warning sign for more serious problems. It could tell you a lot about your general health.
If you get a cold nose often, even in warm weather — or if your nose is cold for a long time, gets painful, bothers you, or accompanies other symptoms — talk to your doctor. They can give you more treatment options and determine if there’s an underlying health issue causing it.