Cold hands (and feet) can be a nuisance. Often they are simply the result of a low ambient temperature and thus a typical side effect of the cold season.
However, if the hands are constantly cold or if they cool down even in pleasant temperatures, there could be a number of causes behind this. In this article I would like to give you an overview of possible causes. You will also receive valuable tips that will help you to heat up your hands in the short or long term.
Why do hands and feet cool down faster than other parts of the body?
Cold is not only an unpleasant, but also potentially life-threatening stimulus. Fortunately, Mother Nature has equipped us with sophisticated mechanisms that – literally – are able to protect us from the cold to a certain extent.
The development of goosebumps is one of these mechanisms. Tiny muscles under the surface of the skin contract, causing the hairs that cover our skin to stand up.
This creates an insulating air cushion that is supposed to protect us from the cold. In our ancestors, who had much more body hair than we do today, this effect was much more pronounced.
In addition to developing goose bumps, we begin to tremble. Our muscles tense and relax alternately and at high speed, which leads to the production of heat.
Protection of the core of the body
When we freeze, the blood vessels that run through the surface of the skin of our extremities also narrow. As a result, less blood flows through the outer layers of the skin; Hands and feet are no longer properly supplied with blood and cool down.
Instead, the vital organs, including the heart and brain, are now supplied with more blood to keep them warm and ensure their function.
If cold extremities are the result of occasional exposure to the cold, there is nothing to be concerned about. However, some people also suffer from cold hands when the temperatures are in the normal range, i.e. pleasant; if there is also discoloration, there could be various causes behind it, which we will examine in more detail in a moment.
Fact check: do women really freeze more easily than men?
In short: yes they do. Women are also more likely to have cool or cold hands and feet than men. One of the reasons for this is that women have a lower resting metabolism and less muscle mass to warm them than is the case with men.
Women also have thinner skin than men  – in a sense, they are less insulated so that they lose body heat more easily. One study also suggests that women have a lower tolerance to cold .
Women are also more likely to experience some of the following causes of cold hands (and sometimes feet), including: iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, and the autoimmune disease lupus erythematosus.
Why do I have cold hands? 15 possible causes
In the following I would like to inform you about possible causes that can cause cold hands. You will find that they are quite broad, ranging from poor nutrition to bad habits and serious illnesses.
# 1 Low body weight and anorexia
If the body is constantly in a calorie deficit, it uses the remaining energy to supply vital organs. Hands and feet fall by the wayside and are poorly supplied with blood. In addition, the body lacks a warming layer of fat, which leads to a lack of insulation and greater sensitivity to cold.
Even in the extreme case of anorexia, which is characterized by fear of weight gain, an abnormally low body weight and a distorted perception of one’s own weight, there is a lower tolerance to cold, which can result in cold hands.
# 2 Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin that is absorbed through food. It is important for blood formation. It also supports the function of our central nervous system. If there is a deficiency, various symptoms may appear, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- low efficiency
- chronic fatigue
- pale skin
Some of the symptoms mentioned are signs of anemia (anemia), which occurs when not enough red blood cells are made.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also cause symptoms such as coldness, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet. If you lack this essential vitamin, it is best to include foods in your diet that ensure supply. Good sources are:
- Offal (especially beef liver)
- Seafood like oysters
As you can see, the best sources of vitamin B-12 are animal-based. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are more likely to suffer from a deficiency. The freshwater algae Chlorella , which contains the vitamin in large quantities, is a good vegan alternative .
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# 3 anemia and iron deficiency
If there is anemia (= anemia), there is a lack of the protein hemoglobin, also called red blood pigment, and / or erythrocytes, the red blood cells.
Anemia is usually caused by an iron deficiency, because the essential trace element acts as a building material for hemoglobin. If there is not enough of it, it means that if we do not get enough iron from our food, not enough hemoglobin can be produced.
What does this mean for us? Normally, hemoglobin ensures that valuable oxygen is transported from the lungs to the most remote tissues in our organism. If there is not enough hemoglobin, less oxygenated blood will reach our extremities, which can cause cold hands. Fatigue and paleness are also symptoms of anemia.
If a blood test has shown that an iron deficiency is the cause of anemia and cold hands, the diet can be adjusted accordingly. This means that ferrous foods should be increased. The following are particularly ferrous:
- Beef and pork liver
- Red meat
- herbal products such as spinach , millet, lentils
Note: Iron from animal sources is also known as so-called heme iron and can be absorbed by the body much more easily than its herbal counterpart: non-heme iron from herbal products. If you combine vegetable sources of iron with vitamin C (e.g. from citrus fruits) you can optimize absorption.
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# 4 Mental causes
People who often suffer from anxiety or stress , in the worst case even exposed to recurring panic attacks, also tend to have cold hands, as the blood flow to the extremities, i.e. the hands and feet, is reduced.
To reduce constant stress and tension, there are various methods that are worth trying out:
- autogenes Training
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Also adaptogens deal, so hormone-like substances that help the body with stress, valuable support can provide.
# 5 smoking
A harmful lifestyle such as smoking causes permanent damage to the blood vessels and constricts them, which can result in cold hands, among other things.
Over time, smoking can also damage blood vessels in the heart, making it harder for our “engine” to pump blood all the way to the hands and feet.
# 6 Sedentary lifestyle
Those who lack exercise for professional or other reasons and spend a lot of time sitting often suffer from cold hands, because lack of exercise is detrimental to blood circulation.
What can you do to make your everyday life more active?
- Find a sport that you enjoy.
- Go for a walk after work.
- Walk to work or ride a bike instead of getting from A to B by car or bus; Choose to climb stairs instead of relaxing in the elevator.
- Make sure to get up regularly and, if possible, do small exercises that stimulate blood circulation.
- Ever thought of working standing up? Standing is not only better for posture (and therefore blood circulation), it also provides more focus.
# 7 Lack of sleep
If you sleep too little or if the quality of your sleep suffers due to poor sleep hygiene , you will feel exhausted. An exhausted body is no longer able to regulate the temperature optimally, so that feelings of coldness and of course cold hands can result.
We recommend that your body sleep for at least 7 hours so that your body can recover. In addition, the conditions in the bedroom should be right. Among other things, it should be as dark as possible and quiet. Electrical devices should be turned off at night. In addition, fresh air and cool temperatures are beneficial for sleep.
Would you like to find out more about the topic? Then feel free to read our article on healthy sleep .
# 8 Raynaud’s Syndrome
The Raynaud’s phenomenon is a disorder in which there is a blood vessel in fingers or toes to a spasmodic constriction. As a result, the tissue through which the vessel flows is insufficiently supplied with blood, becomes cold, numb, and turns white, sometimes blue.
If the constriction loosens again, the tissue takes on a red color; often the process is accompanied by a tingling or throbbing sensation.
The attacks are triggered by exposure to cold as well as emotional or physical stress, for example by operating machines that vibrate.
There are also two different forms of the syndrome:
- Primary Raynaud’s syndrome: If there are no other underlying diseases, it is the primary form, which mainly affects young adults (especially women).
- Secondary Raynaud’s Syndrome: This form is more common in adults in their 30s and 40s and is also the consequence of another disease, such as B. the thoracic outlet syndrome, means that Raynaud is to be understood as a symptom in this case.
The best way to counter the syndrome is to …
- Avoid the cold
- renounces harmful substances (nicotine etc.)
- reduces physical and emotional stress
- consumed anti-inflammatory foods
- moves regularly
Would you like to read more on the subject? Then follow this link and find out more about Raynaud’s syndrome in our article .
# 9 autoimmune diseases
A number of autoimmune diseases can also be responsible for cold hands and are partly related to Raynaud’s syndrome.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and organs. It occurs in spurts and mainly affects the skin, but it can also spread to the entire organism and cause inflammation anywhere in the body. Symptoms include:
- inflammatory changes in the skin of the face, chest and arms
- painful / inflamed joints, muscles and tendon sheaths
- Central nervous system discomfort,
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Inflammation of the lymph nodes, heart muscle and pancreas
The disease can also trigger Raynaud’s syndrome, as it can lead to poor blood flow to the extremities.
Scleroderma is a group of rare autoimmune diseases. As a rule, scleroderma affects the skin and connective tissue, causing them to thicken and harden. The disease often manifests itself on the hands: swelling and redness appear, and the skin around the finger joints thickens and becomes increasingly tighter.
The disease can also exist as a systemic variant, which is the case when internal organs such as the lungs or heart are affected.
Scleroderma can also be associated with Raynaud’s syndrome . If this is the case, the systemic variant is usually present.
In the course of this disease, the immune system falsely attacks the joint cartilage and gradually destroys it until finally bone rubs against bone. A connection between rheumatism and Raynaud is suspected .
In the case of this autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the salivary and lacrimal glands. In addition, the disease also seems to be related to Raynaud .
# 10 vascular disease
In addition to autoimmune diseases, vascular diseases such as the following can also manifest themselves through cold hands (or feet).
This condition affects the arteries of the arms and legs. More precisely: Inflammation occurs and the affected vessels become blocked, which can lead to feelings of coldness in the extremities; Raynaud’s syndrome can also develop .
Here, blood vessels constrict due to plaque deposits. If arteries that carry blood to the limbs are affected, feelings of coldness often result.
The circulatory disorder occurs mainly in young women and becomes noticeable in cool temperatures by a blue discoloration of the fingers, toes, nose and ears.
Aortic arch syndrome
The aortic arch is a section of the aorta (main artery) that arises from the heart. From the aortic arch, in turn, several arteries branch off, which, among other things, supply the arms with blood. If these vessels constrict, the blood pressure in the arms drops. The result? Cold hands.
“Flammer’s Syndrome” is a regulatory disorder that affects the blood vessels and can manifest itself through numerous symptoms, including cold hands, low blood pressure, longer time to fall asleep, decreased feeling of thirst and generally increased sensitivity.
The syndrome occurs more often in women than in men, more in slim people than in overweight people; Furthermore, people who work in closed rooms and not outdoors are increasingly affected .
# 11 Cranberry Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a canal that is located in the area of the wrist. The so-called median nerve runs through this small tunnel, which controls the muscle movement in the hand and creates a feeling in the palms of the hands and fingers.
In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, the median arm nerve becomes trapped in the tunnel, causing tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands.
The causes of the syndrome are a naturally narrow carpal tunnel, heredity, constant stress on the wrist from physical work, wrist injuries, inflammation, etc.
Those affected by the syndrome often suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome  and are more sensitive to low temperatures.
# 12 Hypothyroidism
In the case of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, which can cause a number of symptoms, including: goiter, unexplained weight gain, sleep disorders, fatigue, depression , lack of drive, hair loss, dry skin, high cholesterol – and one markedly lower tolerance to cold.
An underfunction of the small butterfly-shaped gland, which is located near the larynx, does not cause cold hands, but makes the body more susceptible to low temperatures.
How you can support your thyroid:
- Eat healthy.
- Exercise regularly.
- Make sure you have a good supply of micronutrients.
- Use temperature stimuli such as heat and cold for yourself.
- Strengthen your immune system.
- Crank up your detox.
If you would like to learn more about a healthy thyroid, please read our detailed article on the topic that I have linked for you.
# 13 Low blood pressure
The cause of low blood pressure is a disproportion between the vascular volume and the circulating blood volume, which can result from: low vascular resistance, insufficient blood volume, insufficient blood return to the heart or insufficient pumping function of the heart.
Typical symptoms are: dizziness, tiredness, headache, poor concentration, rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties and cold hands and feet.
If the values are below 100/110 to 60 mmHg, the blood pressure is considered to be low. A distinction is also made between:
- Primary hypotension: This is the most common form. The causes are usually not recognizable. Young, slim people (especially women) are particularly often affected.
- Secondary hypotension: In this case, low blood pressure is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as B. an underactive thyroid or heart disease.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the blood sugar level of those affected is permanently high. Over time, this leads to damage to blood vessels, nerves and organs. If the vessels and nerves of the extremities are affected, this can become noticeable through tingling or cold hands and feet.
# 15 medication
Some medications can make you feel cold, which may also affect your hands. These include beta blockers, which are prescribed to treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular complications. Other side effects include tiredness, dizziness, and nausea.
If you are feeling cold as a result of medication, you can talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.
What can I do about cold hands? Tips and tricks at a glance
First of all: If feelings of coldness in your hands and feet are accompanied by other symptoms, you should seek medical help. If underlying diseases are diagnosed, which are expressed (among other things) by cold hands, your doctor will inform you about appropriate treatments.
In the following you will find some tips and tricks that will ensure that your hands (and feet) get warm again in acute situations. Others are able to improve the blood flow to your extremities more sustainably, so that you are generally no longer so susceptible to low temperatures.
Note, however, that the cause that is responsible for your cold hands plays an important role and that not every tip is suitable for countering every cause.
Tips and tricks against cold hands:
- Make sure you dress appropriately and protect your extremities (gloves, socks, hat) at low temperatures. If necessary, equip yourself with several layers to keep you warm (keyword: onion principle).
- Exercise daily to stimulate your blood circulation. Do sports, go for a walk, integrate small exercises into your (work) everyday life.
- Massage cold hands or feet to stimulate blood circulation.
- Always dry your hands carefully, because evaporation cold also causes icy fingers.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet that provides you with all the nutrients you need.
- Reduce stress through relaxation techniques such as B. Meditation.
- Check whether you are getting enough sleep and, if necessary, optimize your sleep hygiene.
- Avoid harmful substances like nicotine.
- Make sure you drink enough fluids, because your water balance affects the flow properties of your blood – how about a hot ginger tea, for example ?
- If necessary, supplement your diet with iodine, selenium , proteins and vitamin A for healthy thermogenesis and regularly eat beetroot and ginger for healthy blood circulation
- Cordyceps can also help stimulate blood flow and metabolism.
Today we live in an age of warmth, and while the association is obvious, I don’t mean the warming of our planet, but the fact that cold has become a stimulus to which we are seldom exposed, as there is an abundance of it There are possibilities that keep us from freezing.
Rightly! After all, cold is uncomfortable and harmful, isn’t it?
Well, not necessarily. The fact is that you can use cold specifically for yourself and your health. The dose is crucial. If you are briefly and regularly exposed to the cold, for example in the course of a cold shower or during an ice bath, you benefit from the effects that result when you leave your comfortably warm comfort zone.
Through regular exposure to the cold, we force our body to adapt and ensure that it can cope better with the cold. Strictly speaking, low temperatures lead to a strengthening of the immune system and the increased formation of brown adipose tissue, which significantly improves your metabolic performance and makes you more resistant to cold in the long term .
Please note : If you are weakened in any way ( cold , immune deficiency, etc.), you should avoid exposing yourself to low temperatures.
Are you fascinated by the topic? Then read our article on the effects of a cold shower .
Conclusion on the subject of cold hands
There are a number of causes that can cause cold hands and possibly feet – illnesses, certain behaviors, such as B. Smoking and an unbalanced diet can affect the blood flow to the extremities.
Of course, you can take short-term measures to make your hands warm again; In the long term, however, it is worth identifying the exact cause that is responsible for your cold hands in order to achieve more sustainable success.