What causes feeling cold?

Feeling cold is most often due to actually being in a cold environment. In some cases, such as with infections, you may feel cold despite being quite warm. Other reasons for feeling cold include hypothyroidism, anemia, bacterial or viral infection, and hypothermia.

Common causes of feeling cold

Feeling cold may be caused by a variety of conditions including:

  • Anemia
  • Anorexia
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Body temperature below 96 degrees Fahrenheit (hypothermia)
  • Chronic illness, especially when untreated
  • Exposure to cold environments
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Raynaud’s disease (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation; has no known cause)

Serious or life-threatening causes of feeling cold

In some cases, feeling cold may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Immersion in freezing water or being exposed to other intense cold temperatures
  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord) or other serious infections

Questions for diagnosing the cause of feeling cold

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your feeling cold including:

  • When did you first start feeling cold?
  • Where do you feel cold?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • Does anything make you feel better?
  • Are you taking any medications?

What are the potential complications of feeling cold?

The complications of feeling cold depend almost completely on the underlying cause. In most cases, a mild feeling of cold is not associated with serious complications. Feeling very cold, especially due to true hypothermia, can come with life-threatening complications.

Because feeling cold can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Frostbite
  • Gangrene
  • Organ failure or dysfunction
  • Respiratory failure


Cold intolerance. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003095.htm. Accessed May 27, 2011.

Hypothermia: a cold weather hazard. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/hypothermia.htm. Accessed May 27, 2011.


What is feeling cold?

Feeling cold is a perception of decreased body temperature or the feeling that your body is colder than usual. You can feel cold even when your temperature is normal or high, such as when you experience fever and chills. You can also feel cold when you your body temperature is below normal (hypothermia). You ... Read more about feeling coldintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with feeling cold?

A variety of symptoms may occur with feeling cold. Associated symptoms vary greatly depending on the underlying cause of the cold feeling.... Read more about feeling coldsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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