Why Do I Get Cold So Easily

While people can tolerate a range of different ambient temperatures, extreme sensitivity to cold temperatures and suffering in the cold is a known ailment called cold intolerance.  Cold intolerance can severely impact your quality of life and overall health, so it is important to seek some guidance on how to deal with it in the short and long-term.1

So, why do you get cold so easily?  Your body has an internal temperature regulation process called “thermoregulation” which counteracts cold environment temperatures by initiating functions like shivering and moving blood flow to your core to restore body heat.  In conditions of cold sensitivity, thermoregulation may work less efficiently to correct the body's temperature - this is called “thermal dysregulation”.  This dysfunction can be a byproduct of an underlying medical condition or health problem, so you may have to investigate further to find out why you are affected with cold intolerance.2  

Read on to find out if you may be at risk of cold intolerance and what you can do to reduce its impact on your life.


Cold intolerance is a state of extreme cold sensitivity.   It causes reactions such as soreness, loss of feeling, rigidity and swelling in the affected skin and joints due to a restriction in blood flow to the extremities.1  

It occurs commonly alongside other health issues which predispose individuals to high pain sensitivity and is seen more in some groups prone to cold sensitivity including women and people with family members also affected by cold intolerance.1 

In order to manage and treat the issues cold intolerance may be causing, there are certain strategies for improving blood flow and preventing cold sensitivity reactions that can be employed.    

What causes cold intolerance?

Cold intolerance can be caused by certain conditions and medical problems.  It can also be a side effect of some medications and treatments.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of examples of issues which cause or exacerbate cold sensitivity.  

Autoimmune Disease 

Cold intolerance can be a symptom of immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.  Rheumatoid and lupus patients are prone to a specific form of cold intolerance called Raynaud’s disease.  Raynaud’s disease affects the circulation: classic signs include loss of feeling in fingers and toes and white/bluish discoloration of the surrounding skin.3

Nerve Disorders 

Cold intolerance is prevalent in those with disorders of the nervous system.  For example, multiple sclerosis (MS) patients can experience exacerbated nerve and muscle symptoms in cold conditions.4   Fibromyalgia patients can additionally be more sensitive to cold due to being unable to modulate their core temperature.5

Nerve damage has also reportedly resulted in cold intolerance in between a third and almost a half of trauma patients during and after their initial recovery period.1   


Iron deficiency (anaemia) predisposes anaemics to cold intolerance due to reduced flow of blood oxygen to the hands and feet meaning they cannot be properly warmed in response to cold temperatures.6  This is also the case for type 1 and type 2 diabetics who are prone to anaemia and impaired blood circulation to the extremities.  Diabetics can also experience nerve pain in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy) that increases the risk of extreme sensitivity to the cold.7

Low body weight (a common result of some eating disorders and malnutrition) means there is less body fat to “insulate” the body against the cold.  Reduced energy levels available in a malnourished diet also mean body temperature cannot be maintained at the normal level.8

Circulation Problems 

As good blood circulation is a vital factor in restoring heat to body tissues in cold weather, health issues that cause poor circulation can cause cold intolerance.  These include heart disease, abnormal blood pressure, migraine and peripheral artery disease (narrowing of blood arteries that supply the heart, brain and lower body tissues).1,7

Metabolic Diseases

Metabolic diseases, like kidney disease and hypothyroidism, also make it difficult for patients to maintain a normal body temperature.  This is because poor excretion of toxins in kidney disease can gradually reduce your body temperature below the normal range and low thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism can reduce the energy available for thermoregulation (to restore body heat in the cold).7,8

Medications and Treatments 

Some medications, for example, beta-blockers (commonly prescribed as heart and anti-anxiety medication) can exacerbate cold intolerance symptoms and cold-sensitivity conditions such as Raynaud’s syndrome.7

Surgery on the finger, hand or arm joints is also a risk factor for later suffering from cold intolerance.  This is particularly the case if patients undergo a painful recovery period after surgery.1 

Chemotherapy may trigger cold intolerance in cancer patients undergoing the treatment.  This is specific to patients with certain cancers of the digestive tract being treated with the chemotherapeutic drug: oxaliplatin.9 

Management and treatment for cold intolerance

The Multiple Sclerosis Trust recommends multiple ways you can manage cold intolerance on a daily basis.  Firstly, it is important to keep your body warm, especially when you're not in control of the environmental temperature.  You can do this by wearing multiple layers of clothing, consuming hot meals and beverages, and getting regular exercise to promote good blood circulation and bodily heat generation.  You should also ensure your home’s temperature is warm enough for you to sit comfortably without feeling cold or pain.4

The Arthritis Foundation adds that it is important to keep your skin free from moisture like sweat as this can lead to quicker skin cooling in cold air.  However, warm water can be used for immersing cold hands and feet to relieve symptoms of cold intolerance.  You may also consider some lifestyle changes like reducing alcohol intake, practicing stress relieving methods, and quitting smoking as these things can trigger cold intolerance symptoms (specifically Raynaud’s syndrome).3,4

However, if cold intolerance is adversely affecting you beyond what you are able to manage at home - you should see a medical professional to discuss your symptoms, receive a diagnosis and implement a plan to further treat your cold intolerance symptoms.  

A doctor will usually investigate the underlying cause by considering the wide range of related conditions listed above.  Your doctor should then recommend a treatment plan to follow for the underlying condition which may help to reduce the symptoms and occurrence of cold sensitivity.  Treating the first-hand symptoms of cold intolerance and the related ailment is ultimately promising for improving your overall health and quality of life.  


How is cold intolerance diagnosed?

Clinical researchers have used the ‘Cold Intolerance Symptom Severity (CISS)’ to diagnose true cold intolerance based on self-reported patient pain scoring.  Higher pain scores indicate true cold intolerance and separate the syndrome from related, less severe forms of pain in cold temperatures.1

In practice, doctors will physically examine the areas of the body where the patients report feeling cold (usually the hands and feet) and look for signs of cold intolerance (like unusual blood vessels in the skin).  In Raynaud’s disease, symptoms will not always be present so the doctor should also take the account of your experience and other medical backgrounds into consideration when diagnosing you.7 

Underlying causes of cold intolerance, like hypothyroidism and anaemia, can be diagnosed by a simple blood test.  This may explain why you are experiencing cold sensitivity.8 

Is cold intolerance common?

One study estimates that cold intolerance is present in over 10% of the population.  However, nearly half the population will experience symptoms similar to cold intolerance – only in a less severe and debilitating form.1 

When to see a doctor for cold intolerance?

See a doctor if cold intolerance is having a substantial and unmanageable impact on your physical and mental health.  Cold intolerance may also put you at risk of hypothermia (extremely low body temperature), which is particularly dangerous.8 


Cold intolerance can cause a debilitating sensitivity to the cold, making it difficult to go about daily life and enjoy things from exercising outdoors to relaxing at home.  In order to improve your symptoms, there are a number of steps you should take.  This includes learning about why your symptoms occur and how to manage them.  

Intolerance to the cold is almost always secondary to another health issue so if you haven’t already investigated the cause of your symptoms you should liaise with your doctor to get to the bottom of the issue.  This is important as it is vital you receive prompt care for the more serious medical conditions listed above and treatment that can ultimately lessen your cold intolerance symptoms.  The solution to some of these conditions is often through simple medication or specific pain management strategies.  

In the meantime, there are immediate steps you can take to manage your temperature that will hopefully improve your symptoms without medical intervention.  Nevertheless, you should take cold intolerance seriously to avoid any adverse effects on your long-term health and it certainly shouldn’t be ignored.  


  1. Khabbazi A, Farzaneh R, Mahmoudi M, Shahi M, Jabbaripour Sarmadian A, Babapour E, et al. Cold intolerance and associated factors: a population study. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2022 Oct 27 [cited 2023 Jan 13];12(1):18029. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-21842-9 
  2. Mendoza KC, Griffin JD. Thermoregulation. In: Koob GF, Moal ML, Thompson RF, editors. Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience [Internet]. Oxford: Academic Press; 2010 [cited 2023 Jan 13]. p. 400–4. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978008045396500169X 
  3. Raynaud’s Disease [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/raynaud-s-disease 
  4. Trust MS. Temperature sensitivity [Internet]. MS Trust. [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/temperature-sensitivity 
  5. Fibromyalgia - symptoms [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fibromyalgia/symptoms/ 
  6. 5 symptoms of an iron deficiency [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/5-symptoms-of-an-iron-deficiency 
  7. 5 reasons you’re always cold [Internet]. AARP. [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/reasons-for-being-cold-fd.html 
  8. McGuire J. The medical explanation for your most common anorexia symptoms [Internet]. Eating Disorder Hope. 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/medical-common-anorexia-symptoms 
  9. Adams M. How to cope with cold sensitivity during chemotherapy [Internet]. MD Anderson Cancer Center. [cited 2023 Jan 13]. Available from: https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/how-to-cope-with-cold-sensitivity-during-chemotherapy-oxaliplatin-drug.h00-159460056.html 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amy Murtagh

BSc Veterinary Bioscience - Bachelors of Science, University of Glasgow

Amy is a recent graduate from Glasgow's School of Biodiversity, One Health and Veterinary Medicine with a particular interest in science communication in these subject areas.

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