I am constantly freezing. Even if it's 70 above, I am so cold. I can't always have a blanket on me with a heater. What could this mean? What can I do about it?
In living environments and offices around the world, people have waged war against the thermostat to find the most comfortable temperatures. In trying to determine what's hot and what's not, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers defined thermal comfort as "that state of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment."
A number of physiological factors can affect how quickly a person produces heat and how quickly that heat is lost, which can contribute to a sense that you're "constantly freezing." Some of the unique factors that contribute to a person's thermal comfort level may include:
Body fat is an insulator and plays an important role in maintaining body temperature. Also, a person with more muscle mass generates more heat.
A diet lacking in essential vitamins and nutrients can slow down the body's metabolism, the process of breaking down food and nutrients to produce energy or heat.
Mechanisms that help regulate body temperature, such as vasoconstriction and shivering, are less effective in older people.
Women and men tend to differ in body fat and body surface area (shape). Additionally, women are more likely to be cold during their periods.
If your thermal comfort level has you always wrapped up in blankets or roasting in front of a space heater, try warming up to the following ideas:
- Wear layers, including long underwear, and outer garments like sweaters and jackets.
- Run your hands under warm water for a minute or two.
- Drink warm fluids, such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or even just warm water.
- Stay dry! When wet, loss of body heat occurs much faster.
- Wear a hat or scarf to help prevent heat from escaping through the head.
Cold intolerance may also be indicative of an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, anorexia nervosa, or other chronic severe illnesses. Before you hop on the polar express to your health care provider, consider the following:
What is the time frame in which your cold intolerance has occurred?
Is it constant, or just in select situations or times of the day?
Is it a recent issue or have you experienced it most of your life?
Has your intolerance to cold gotten progressively worse?
Is it accompanied by any other symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss/gain, muscle weakness, or joint or muscle pain?
By trying some of the warming strategies listed above, and considering these questions about possible causes you may find a possible explanation. If you remain concerned, consider keeping a journal of your experiences for a week or two before seeing a health care provider. This way you can provide details to her/him in an effort to uncover the source and a workable solution. If you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment at Medical Services on the CUMC campus or the Morningside campus.