Freezing • Symptom of illnesses & iron deficiency

Author: Jan Groh, medical writer
Last updated: November 18, 2021

Freezing is a natural process of the body to compensate for the difference in temperature. However, freezing and sensitivity to cold can also be symptoms of an illness. Constant freezing is often related to certain deficiencies.

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Constant freezing?  These tips and home remedies will heat you up!

What happens in the body when it freezes?

The body temperature is regulated by the temperature center in the brain. When freezing, the body tries to compensate for the difference to a cold ambient temperature. As a result, the blood supply to the veins in the feet and hands is reduced, while the work of the internal organs is protected at the same time. The blood flow in the body is changed via the control of the blood vessel diameter in such a way that warm blood benefits the vital organs of the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract (centralization of the circulatory system).

A typical reaction to being cold is tremors all over your body. The tremors, in turn, are the result of muscle tension that creates heat. So in the end, tremors are a protective mechanism of the organism in order to raise the body temperature again.

The goose bumps that often occur when freezing is a holdover from human development. It represents an attempt to raise a fur that is no longer there in order to improve insulation against the cold of the surroundings. While humans lost their fur in the course of evolution, the muscles used to straighten their hair have been preserved. When freezing, these muscles become active and create the typical goose bumps.

It’s not just the cold that makes you freeze: an overview of the causes

The most common cause of freezing is mild hypothermia due to a low ambient temperature or inadequate clothing. Freezing can also have other causes. For example, you typically freeze when you have a fever, as the ambient temperature is perceived as too cold due to the increased body temperature. The typical chills arise when the body tries to generate heat by moving muscles.

Other causes of (constant) freezing:

  • Hypothermia: Typical are initially tremors and increased breathing, with more pronounced hypothermia slowed breathing, decreasing pain sensation, tiredness, unconsciousness, possible respiratory and circulatory arrest as well as frostbite (bluish, later whitish discoloration of parts of the body).

  • Low blood pressure: Possible symptoms are increased and constant freezing without fever, but with dizziness and reduced performance.

  • Hypothyroidism: Possible symptoms are constant freezing without a fever, fatigue, hair loss, skin changes and a deep voice.

  • Iron Deficiency Anemia: Possible symptoms are, for example, pale skin, constant freezing, declining performance, hair loss and chapped lips.

  • Low body weight: Malnourished people are low in adipose tissue. Your body is therefore poorly insulated against heat loss. For this reason, constant freezing is often found in anorexia nervosa or emaciation (cachexia) in the context of cancer.

  • Widespread injuries the skin, for example in the case of burns. This also includes severe sunburn.

  • Raynaud’s Syndrome: Parasitic circulatory disorder affecting fingers and toes.

  • Nerve disorders can affect both the nerve fibers that conduct temperature signals from the body surface to the brain, as well as the processing of temperature signals in the temperature center itself (for example in the case of head injuries or a stroke). In such cases, the regulatory mechanism that normally keeps the body’s temperature constant may fail.

Constant freezing should be clarified by a doctor

Freezing is a subjective and usually harmless sensation. Constant freezing or freezing in connection with other symptoms can, however, be the result of an underlying disease.

Freezing also occurs in the initial stages of hypothermia. The measurement of the body temperature records whether the feeling of cold is based on a lowering of the body temperature (hypothermia: approx. 34-37 degrees Celsius) or an increased body temperature (fever: from 38 degrees Celsius) triggers the freezing. The medical history, physical examination and, if necessary, blood tests provide clues as to the cause of the sensation of cold.

Freezing can indicate a medical emergency

Hypothermia, for example after breaking into the water while ice skating, usually requires an emergency doctor to be contacted on 112. The appropriate diagnostic measures for measuring body temperature and checking cardiovascular functions are then carried out met and further treatment steps initiated.

According to the German Red Cross, first aiders should take immediate action: Bring those affected to a warm place, remove wet, cold clothes, wrap them in blankets. However, no active heat should be applied, for example with a hot water bottle or by rubbing. Warm tea is only recommended if people are conscious. Alcoholic beverages are taboo in any case.

Constant freezing as a symptom of illness

To get to the bottom of the cause of frequent freezing, it is essential to have a medical history. Those affected should inform their general practitioner whether they are cold more often and whether they have observed other symptoms.

Further diagnostic measures:

  • Taking a fever provides information about the body temperature.

  • Specific examinations, for example with ultrasound or blood analysis, provide information on the nutritional status and functional disorders of organs.

  • In addition to basic values ​​that provide information about the general state of health, hormone values ​​are particularly important for blood tests. For example, they can indicate an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). A blood test is also an important diagnostic option for iron deficiency anemia.

  • The measurement of the blood pressure allows conclusions to be drawn as to whether the freezing is possibly related to low blood pressure.

How to Measure Your Blood Pressure Correctly

Treatment: Stop acute or constant freezing

Freezing is treated by increasing the body temperature. If there is an underlying disease, it is important to treat it in a targeted manner.

Acute freezing is counteracted by passive or active heating:

  • With passive heating, further heat loss is prevented as far as possible, for example through a dry, warm environment, additional clothing or wrapping in blankets. The body warms itself up from within.

  • Active heating, on the other hand, means the external supply of heat, for example through warm drinks, a hot water bottle or, in extreme cases, through medical measures such as thermal probes that are inserted into the chest.

Chronic freezing is also treated briefly through passive or active warming. In the medium term, however, recurrent freezing should be treated by treating the underlying disorder. This can be necessary in the case of low blood pressure or an underactive thyroid. Iron tablets are usually given over a period of up to six months for iron deficiency anemia.

What to do if you are cold due to hypothermia?

Is it about one In an acute emergency of hypothermia, treatment depends on the extent of hypothermia. If the patient is cold, trembling or has a fast heartbeat, it is usually recommended to warm up the affected person (remove wet clothes, blankets, warm drinks). If the hypothermia has progressed further (slow breathing, muscle stiffness, reduced pain sensation, tiredness or unconsciousness), however, caution is advised when actively warming up – then, as a rule, no unauthorized, active warming-up attempts should be made. You can find detailed information on the measures to be taken in case of hypothermia on the website of the German Red Cross.

If possible, moderate and severe hypothermia should be treated in a hospital, as serious complications can arise in the course of the warming. For example, rewarming too quickly can cause a sudden influx of cold blood from the outside of the circuit. As a result, the temperature in the core of the body can temporarily drop further and disturbances of the heart function can be triggered.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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