Cold intolerance is not a disease but a symptom typically linked to another underlying condition. People with cold intolerance may have conditions, such as anorexia, issues with their blood circulation, or thyroid disorders.

When someone has cold intolerance, it means that they are usually extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. They may find themselves complaining about the cold temperature when other people are comfortable or warm and wearing extra layers of clothing may not be enough to reduce their discomfort.

This article will review cold intolerance and its potential causes, the symptoms people may experience, and how people can treat and prevent them. This article will also explain how doctors diagnose the causes of cold intolerance and its possible complications.

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People with cold intolerance may feel extremely uncomfortable when they stay in cold environments.

Cold intolerance may have associations with a variety of underlying conditions. These may differ from issues with blood circulation and having little body fat.


Symptoms may include pain, shivering, and feeling numb. These symptoms may only occur in specific areas of the body, but for certain people, pain and numbness may develop in their entire body.

Other symptoms of cold intolerance may include:

  • skin turning pale, red, or bluish
  • stiffness
  • weakness
  • swelling

Several different systems regulate the temperature of the human body. A part of the brain called the hypothalamus acts as the thermostat of the body and regulates its temperature. The hypothalamus sends messages around the body to heat or cool it.

The hypothalamus also sends messages to the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism. The thyroid gland can order the body to increase the consumption of calories. This provides more fuel to the body, producing more energy and allowing a person to warm up.

The circulatory system then has the important role of spreading heat around the body through the bloodstream.

Also, stores of body fat can help maintain the body temperature.

A disruption in this complex system may cause issues with the thermoregulation of the body temperature. This may happen due to a great variety of underlying conditions, including:

  • anemia
  • anorexia or low body mass index (BMI)
  • issues with blood circulation and blood vessels, including atherosclerosis
  • hypothyroidism
  • fibromyalgia
  • hypothalamus disorders
  • diabetes
  • upper limb trauma or diseases
  • having had frostbite in the past
  • nerve injuries
  • vitamin B12 deficiency

Smoking may increase the risk of developing health conditions that lead to cold intolerance. Additionally, the occupational use of hand-arm vibration (HAV) machinery may increase the risk of cold intolerance.

A doctor may perform a physical examination and ask questions about a person’s symptoms, lifestyle habits, and medical history if they are reporting cold intolerance.

After the initial examination, doctors may also require a person to undergo additional tests to determine the causes of their discomfort and the other potential symptoms they may be experiencing.

The treatment for cold intolerance can depend on what is causing it. Therefore, treatment can be broad and may include supplements, medications, or undergoing specific treatments.

Doctors may also recommend some lifestyle changes that may help people reduce their discomfort when they feel cold.

For example, if iron deficiency anemia causes cold intolerance, doctors may prescribe iron supplements. However, if a person has vascular problems, treatment may involve undergoing surgery depending on the type and severity of the issue.

People with cold intolerance may find relief from their symptoms by wearing appropriate clothing during the winter. Wearing sufficient layers of clothing can help protect them from the cold weather and keep their body warm.

If possible, it may also be beneficial to avoid going outside during extremely cold days to prevent cold exposure. People with low body fat may also consider seeing a specialist. Nutritionists can recommend an appropriate diet based on the nutritional requirement of each individual to achieve a healthy body fat level.

If someone smokes, they may wish to quit. Quitting smoking can help with any circulation issues and improve symptoms.

People with a history of cold intolerance may consider contacting a doctor if they keep feeling cold and their symptoms do not improve. Worsening symptoms or concerns around having sensitivity to the cold may also warrant visiting a doctor.

A doctor can perform a physical examination and other relevant tests to determine the underlying causes of cold intolerance. They can also recommend strategies or appropriate treatments for improving symptoms.

Cold intolerance is not a disease but a symptom of another underlying health condition.

Ignoring the causes of cold intolerance may lead to the experienced symptoms, and underlying conditions causing them, to worsen. If left untreated, conditions, such as anemia, hypothyroidism, or anorexia, could develop into additional health complications, which in some people, may be life threatening.

Cold intolerance is a hypersensitivity to cold, and it may cause many different symptoms, including pain, numbness, and shivering. Health conditions, such as anemia, anorexia, and hypothyroidism, may cause cold intolerance.

Doctors typically diagnose cold intolerance by asking questions and performing a physical examination. However, they may also require additional tests to understand the underlying cause of the hypersensitivity to cold temperatures. The treatment for this condition mainly relies on treating the underlying condition that causes the sensitivity.