Why Am I Always Cold?

It’s normal to feel chilly as temperatures drop during the winter. But if you constantly feel cold—regardless of the season—you might have a cold intolerance. This is a sensitivity to cold, which is especially common in women with low body fat.

This article explores the causes, risk factors, and treatment of cold intolerance.

Young woman shivering cold

Pyrosky / Getty Images

What Is Cold Intolerance?

Cold intolerance is a sensitivity or hypersensitivity to cold.

It’s completely normal to feel cold if you’re spending time outdoors in the winter. But if you feel cold in situations where other people don’t, you might have a cold intolerance. This can include feeling cold while you’re in your house, or having trouble warming up after spending time outdoors in cold temperatures.

Causes

Cold intolerance is often due to issues with the metabolism.

Body temperature is regulated in the brain by hormones. Heat is generated when your body changes food into energy, a process known as metabolism. Body fat helps insulate the heat generated by your metabolism.

Any condition that affects your hormones, metabolism, or body fat might contribute to a cold intolerance. The following are common causes of cold intolerance.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition characterized by low or low-functioning red blood cells.

Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. When you are anemic, your body isn’t getting enough oxygen to function properly, which can cause your metabolism to slow. This might result in a cold intolerance. In fact, feeling cold, weak, or tired are common symptoms of anemia.

Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to vastly restrict their food intake. This often results in a slow metabolism and very little body fat, because people with the condition don’t eat enough to sustain normal bodily functions.

As a result, anorexia can leave a person feeling constantly cold. 

Hypothyroidism 

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate metabolism and temperature. If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, you’re more likely to feel cold.

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, constipation and weight gain. 

Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s disease (also known as Raynaud’s syndrome) is a condition in which the fingers turn blue in the cold and bright red when they warm back up.

Raynaud's is caused by irregularities in the blood flow to the hands when the body is exposed to cold. The condition is more common in people with other medical conditions, including autoimmune disorders.

If you have Raynaud’s disease, you’ll notice the cold in your fingers and hands especially. 

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition in which pain signals do not process properly. This can lead to pain throughout the body and other symptoms.

Cold has a big impact on people with fibromyalgia, causing their skin to hurt. It’s also difficult for people with fibromyalgia to warm up once they’ve been cold.

Risk Factors

Cold intolerance is most common in women who have low body fat. It’s also common in people who have conditions that affect metabolism, hormones, the thyroid, or body fat, which includes all the conditions listed above.

Further, very young babies and older people often struggle to regulate their temperature.

Diagnosis

Identifying a cold intolerance is generally based on symptoms alone. However, a cold intolerance is not a diagnosis in itself, but rather a sign of a possible underlying condition.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your cold intolerance and any other symptoms that you might be experiencing. This can help them address the underlying issue so that you can feel more comfortable. 

Treatment

Treating cold intolerance involves identifying the underlying cause. This might include medical testing for certain conditions like hypothyroidism. If your healthcare provider identifies a condition, they can treat that appropriately, which should help regulate your temperature.

You can also make lifestyle changes to help manage cold intolerance, including:

  • Avoid cold environments, when possible
  • Wear extra layers outdoors
  • Turn up your heat indoors

When to Talk to Your Provider

If you are frequently cold and find it difficult to warm up, reach out to a healthcare provider for evaluation and testing. Contact a healthcare provider immediately if you experience changes to your skin from the cold, including color, tingling, numbness, or other concerning symptoms.

Summary

Cold intolerance is a hypersensitivity to cold temperatures. If you find yourself asking, “Why am I always cold?,” consider speaking with a healthcare provider about the cause of your cold intolerance. Causes include conditions like anemia, anorexia, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, and Raynaud's syndrome. Treatment for cold intolerance involves treating one of these underlying issues.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling cold might seem like a minor irritation. But if you’re frequently cold to the point that you're uncomfortable, contact your healthcare provider about an evaluation for conditions that cause cold intolerance. In the meantime, wear high-quality cold gear, like base layers, gloves, and hats, which can help keep you warm in the winter.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should you do if it’s cold outside and you are cold intolerant?

    If you’re frequently cold, it’s best to talk with a healthcare provider to rule out medical causes. Enjoying time outside and exercise is important for your health, even for people who are cold intolerant. Purchasing a synthetic or wool base layer and a high-quality hat, set of gloves, and coat can help you enjoy the outdoors even with a cold intolerance.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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