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First Aid & Emergencies

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Cold Temperature Exposure - Topic Overview

Many people get cold hands or feet, which often are bothersome but not a serious health problem. You are more likely to feel cold easily if you:

  • Do not have much body fat. Fat under the skin helps keep you warm. People who have low body fat may be more likely to get hypothermia. Babies, older or ill adults, or malnourished people have low body fat.
  • Smoke cigarettes or drink caffeine. Nicotine (from tobacco) and caffeine cause narrowing of the blood vessels in the hands and feet. When blood vessels are narrowed, less blood flows to these areas, causing the hands and feet to feel cold.
  • Are under a lot of stress or feel tired. Chronic stress or anxiety can cause your nervous system to release adrenaline, which acts to narrow the blood vessels that supply blood to the hands and feet.
  • Have a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or Raynaud's phenomenon, that makes you feel or react more strongly to cold temperatures.

If you have already been exposed to the cold, first aid measures can warm you up and may even save your life.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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