Fever typically makes a person feel hot, but there are many other possible causes of this symptom. Environmental and lifestyle factors, medications, age, hormones, and certain emotional states can all affect body temperature. However, a persistent feeling of being hot sometimes signals an underlying health condition.
Depending on the cause, a person who feels hot may sweat excessively or not sweat at all. They may have flushed or irritated skin, or their skin may remain unchanged.
In this article, we look at 11 possible causes of feeling hot without a fever. We also explain the treatment options and when to contact a doctor.
A person can check that they do not have a fever by using a thermometer to measure their body temperature. A digital thermometer is the best option, as glass ones can be dangerous.
If an adult’s body temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, they have a fever. However, if their body temperature is normal, at 98.6°F (37°C), they do not have a fever.
A child will have a fever if their temperature is
Many lifestyle and environmental factors can make a person feel hot but not produce a temperature. Factors include:
Hot or humid weather is taxing for the body, and it may affect some people more than others. In hot weather, a person might feel irritable and tired or find it difficult to concentrate.
Sunburn occurs when the sun damages the skin, causing it to feel hot and sore. Heat exhaustion occurs when a person loses too much water and salt through sweating. The
- heavy sweating
- cold, clammy skin
- nausea or vomiting
- tiredness or weakness
- a headache
- muscle weakness or cramping
Children with heat exhaustion may be excessively tired and thirsty, with cool, clammy skin.
A person with heat exhaustion should find a cool area, drink fluids, and stop all physical activity until they feel better. If a person does not cool down or get better within 1 hour, they should seek medical help immediately.
Untreated heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke, which can be life threatening. The symptoms include confusion, fainting, and skin that is hot and dry or changes color. A person may also become unconscious. Due to this, anyone who is with someone showing signs of heatstroke should call 911 right away.
Exercise or strenuous activity
Exercising or carrying out physical tasks can increase a person’s body heat, particularly if they:
- are not used to exercising regularly
- exercise or carry out physical tasks in hot or humid environments
- overexert themselves
Avoiding exercise at the hottest times of the day, drinking more water, and pacing activities may help people avoid becoming too hot during exercise.
Food and drink
Certain foods and drinks can make people feel hotter than usual. These include:
- spicy food
- foods and beverages with a high temperature
People may feel extra heat in their skin or sweat more than usual during and after consuming these foods.
Tight, restrictive, or dark clothing may increase body heat and prevent air circulation around the skin. Synthetic fibers may also trap heat and prevent sweat from evaporating. This can cause excessive warmth and increased sweating.
A range of conditions and disorders can also cause someone to feel hot. These include:
When a person feels stressed or anxious, they may experience physical symptoms, including feeling hot and sweaty. This happens during the “fight-or-flight” response, which increases the person’s heart rate and the blood supply to their muscles.
A person who is feeling anxious or stressed may also notice:
- increased heart rate
- heart palpitations
- tense muscles
- rapid breathing
Hyperthyroidism occurs when a person’s thyroid gland becomes overactive and makes too many thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones affect how the body uses energy.
- shaky hands
- a rapid or irregular heartbeat
- diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
- difficulty sleeping
Sweating is how the body keeps cool. Anhidrosis describes the inability to sweat. This symptom can affect a small or large area of the body. It may be due to an underlying condition, a medication, or blocked or injured sweat glands.
If someone cannot sweat — either at all or across a large area of their body — this could be dangerous. A person with this symptom should speak with a doctor.
The International Diabetes Federation explains that people with diabetes may be more sensitive to heat than people without the condition. This can be due to:
- Dehydration: People with diabetes become dehydrated more quickly during hot weather. Not drinking enough liquids can also raise blood glucose levels, which causes a person to urinate more. This further exacerbates dehydration.
- Complications: Diabetes can cause complications that damage the blood vessels and nerves, which, in turn, may affect a person’s sweat glands. As a result, a person may sweat less, making it more difficult for them to stay cool.
According to the
- frequent urination, especially at night
- feeling very thirsty and hungry
- blurry vision
- tingling in the hands or feet
- unintentional weight loss
People may feel hot for a variety of other reasons, including:
Pregnancy and menstrual cycles
The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom states that it is relatively common to feel hotter than usual during pregnancy and to sweat more. Hormonal changes, which increase blood supply to the skin’s surface, are responsible for these symptoms.
Menopause and perimenopause
People may experience hot flashes during, before, and after menopause. The
- flushed skin on the face and neck
- excessive sweating
- night sweats, which may disrupt sleep
- feeling cold or shivery afterward
The International Hyperhidrosis Society lists a wide range of medications that can cause heat or sweating as a side effect. Medications that might cause a person to feel hot include:
- analgesics, such as naproxen (Aleve) and tramadol (Ultram)
- cardiovascular drugs, such as amlodipine (Norvasc) and losartan (Cozaar)
- hormonal drugs, such as thyroid medication and testosterone
- gastrointestinal drugs, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and atropine (Atropen)
- skin treatments, such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) and isotretinoin (Accutane)
- psychiatric drugs, such as tranquilizers and fluoxetine (Prozac)
- some antibiotics and antiviral drugs
If a person thinks that their medication might be causing side effects, they can speak with a doctor to discuss their options.
The treatment for feeling hot without a fever depends on the underlying cause.
People who feel hot due to environmental or lifestyle factors, such as sun exposure or dietary habits, may feel better if they adjust their daily routine. The
- wearing lightweight, pale, loose-fitting clothing
- staying in air-conditioned spaces, if possible
- taking a cool shower or bath
- drinking plenty of fluids and replacing electrolytes lost through sweat
- avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol
These strategies may also help people who are pregnant and those experiencing hot flashes.
People who feel hot due to anxiety or stress may also benefit from relaxation techniques that calm the nervous system.
A person experiencing frequent anxious thoughts may find a form of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), helpful for reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety.
However, if these strategies do not help, the individual may have a condition that requires medical treatment.
If someone is experiencing heatstroke or has symptoms of heat exhaustion that do not improve within an hour, it is important to seek emergency help.
People may feel hot for many reasons other than a fever. Some causes may be temporary and easy to identify, such as eating spicy foods, being in a humid environment, or experiencing stress and anxiety.
However, some people may feel hot frequently for no apparent reason. In such cases, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition. Anyone who is unsure why they are feeling hot with no fever should consider speaking with a doctor.