You or someone you know may be the one friend in your group who’s constantly cold and shivering. There’s one in every crowd (and it might just be you). That person who wants all of the windows closed in the room, even in the springtime; who fights with their spouse to turn down the air conditioner; and who secretly turns it off the second that person leaves the room (sorry, Honey). You may feel like, and may actually be, the healthiest person on earth, but your body seems to break down and surrender the minute temperatures drop below 70 degrees F.
Maybe you’ve always wondered about the root cause of your frozen fingertips or have longed for a solution to your issue so that you can stop having to tote sweaters along everywhere you go. We spoke with medical experts who identified reasons you may truly hate the effect winter has on your body and solutions that don’t involve quitting your job and moving to Hawaii (though, by all means, if you can swing it, more power to you).
First of all: There’s a good reason why your boyfriend or spouse is looking at you like you have 10 heads when you complain about the cold. “It’s well known, women are more prone to feeling cold than men,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “There are some medical explanations that lead to feeling cold all the time and they include anemia, thyroid dysfunction, uncontrolled diabetes, blood vessels problems infections, and dangerously low body fat as in anorexia nervosa.”
Dr. Kristine Arthur, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says some people may tend to feel more uncomfortable in colder temperatures than others and there may not necessarily be a problem, but that these six medical concerns could be to blame for feeling unusually cold:
- Hypothyroidism “Low thyroid function can cause a generalized sensation of feeling cold all of the time — even when bundled up,” Arthur says. “People may also have dry skin, fatigue and constipation. It needs to be diagnosed with blood tests and is treatable with medication.”
- Raynaud’s disease. “This is a disorder that causes cold fingers and toes. It can be triggered by even mildly cold temperatures. Sometimes the skin can turn blue or white. Symptoms are isolated to extremities. It typically starts before age 30 and usually affects women. This needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. There is treatment available including medication.”
- Peripheral neuropathy. “Again, this could cause cold hands/feet with color change and tingling or numbness. Requires medical exam, diagnostic testing. It can be treated with medication.”
- Poor circulation. “This can occur with age or other chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Managing those conditions and exercising regularly can help to improve circulation.”
- Anemia. “This is when the hemoglobin level in the blood is low. This can happen in someone who does not eat enough iron, is a strict vegetarian or vegan, or has heavy menstrual periods, for instance. People may also look pale and feel tired. It can be checked with a simple blood test. It is not a good idea to start iron supplements without checking your blood tests first.”
- Low body weight. “People who are clinically underweight are often cold. This can be checked by calculating your BMI or body mass index. A level below 18.5 is considered underweight. You can easily calculate your BMI online using calculators which are simple to use.”
If the results to all the tests from your annual physical came back negative and you’re stumped about the source of your cold feet, hands and nose, Ross says you may simply run colder than those around you and that it could be a way for your hormones to work to regulate your internal temperature control. “Women also have more fatty tissue compared to muscle mass in men which generates more heat,” Ross says. “Everyone is different with their thermostat perceptions and settings.”
Ross suggest warming up the natural way: by wearing layers, drinking hot beverages or soup, making sure your home thermostat is set to the mid-70s in the summer and 68 degrees F or lower in the winter, enjoying a warm bath, and getting enough iron and vitamin B12 in your diet, as deficiencies are associated with feeling cold.
“There are certain medications such as progesterone and vitamins such as niacin that can make you feel warm, but I would not suggest taking them just to warm up,” Ross says. “I would stick to the old fashion way of wearing layers, taking a warm bath, and sipping hot tea.”