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January 28th, 2009
10:33 AM ET

She’s hot; he’s cold - battling body temperatures

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

In February, my husband and I will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary.  Many marriage experts will tell you, if a couple have survived that long, they’ve pretty much worked out the kinks in their relationship.  And for the most part, that’s true when it comes to my hubby and me; except for one thing.  We fight constantly over the temperature on our car’s thermostat.

I have always been one of those people who feel warm all the time. I can be out in 20-degree weather in Syracuse and I’m sweating.  My husband, on the other hand, is forever cold.  His feet, ears, hands, (everything but his heart) are always freezing.  A 90-degree day in Miami is comfy for him.  So whether we use the heater or the air conditioner in the car is always an issue. 

Why the difference?   It seems that each one of us has our own body temperature, regulated by the human thermostat, known as the hypothalamus.  This section of the brain controls our body temps.  The average temperature of the human body is 98.6 degrees. But according to doctors, many of us have body temperatures that can vary, plus or minus, within a few degrees of that number.  So what is a “normal” temperature for some is not always “normal” for others. And because we are mammals and not reptiles, our bodies adapt to cold and hot by either shivering or sweating, depending on our body temperature.

There are different factors that can affect whether our inner thermostats go up or down. Medication can cause our temps to change.  Certain blood-thinning meds, pills for blood pressure and thyroid medication can all make our body temperatures dip.  And illnesses including diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause us to become chilly.

Muscle mass is another factor.  A lot of people think fat can insulate the body, and for the most part it helps.  But lean muscle mass requires more energy to run and so increases the metabolic rate to process calories into usable fuel for muscle.  That keeps us toasty.  And water helps. Health experts say drinking water can regulate body temperatures and keep them level.

Our age also makes a difference. By the time we reach our 50s, the difference in body temperatures between men and women becomes apparent.  Ladies begin to feel the effects of menopause, and “hot flashes” can make them so uncomfortable that many want to participate in their local “Polar Bear” plunge sans bathing suit!  Men can begin to face circulation problems earlier than women. Bad circulation can keep blood from flowing to hands and feet, producing chilly extremities, which could drive even the most macho of men to wear mittens.

So the next time someone asks you why you’re driving around with the air conditioner on in the middle of January…or wearing a parka in May, say, “It’s not me, it’s my hypothalamus!!!”  At least that’s what I keep telling my husband. 

Are you always cold or warm?  What do you do to make yourself more comfortable?  We’d love to hear about it.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Filed under: Cancer

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Delise Means

    I immediately showed this article to my husband Bruce. To keep myself comfortable, I have learned to dress accordingly. I have extra clothes for when I am cold, and I can remove them piece by piece as I get hot. I have also learned to carry pretty hankerchiefs, when I am traveling to countries where the temps are always hot and my body becomes a leaking water faucet. It has taken me a few years, but I can honestly say my hypothalamus and I now work together!

    January 28, 2009 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jackie

      Hah, I am always HOT. I crave cool blowing air, I can't stand a room that doesn't have some air flow. I sweat very easily, I am not over weight and have been like this all my life. My mother recently (after blaming me for turning the air conditioner up) told me that she still remembers the day when I was 4, she was taking me for a professional picture and in the time it took to get to the studio my hair was soaking wet. She then told me that she remembers me as an infant all bundled up in the car sweating. Apparenly my body just likes cooler temp's. Peri Menapause gave me horrible hot flashes!!!!.....My ex husband used to tell me that laying next to me was like laying next to a furnance. Recently I was caring for a ill friend, there were too of us each had one of her hands and she commented that she had one hot (me) and one cool hand (friend).

      July 16, 2010 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
    • James

      Hey my wife always complains that i am too cold and its not good in bed what can one do?

      August 19, 2014 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
  2. Tammy

    I have always had issues with being cold when everyone else is having "perfect weather". My solution is to have a quick cup of decalf and start moving around alot. This way I get things done around the house and get my work out for the day!

    January 29, 2009 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joyce

    I am both. I am cold due to thyroid problems and hot due to hot flashes. After a year I can predict when the flashes will occur and have learned what to wear to bed, dress in layers etc.

    My husband however, is NEVER hot. He is always cold. He too has thyroid issues but since we are both 60 now, I think its more of a circulation issue. He will wear multiple layers in the house and claims that his father was the same way. Can you go to bed with a long sleeve shirt on?????? He can and is comfortable. We even have a mattress pad that is heated. Dual controls of course.

    January 29, 2009 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kuy

    I'm female, and generally fall into the too hot catagory. I wear summer clothing in the winter. If I'm too hot I feel nauseas and tired. I think it's easier to put on more clothing to stay warm than to remove clothing to stay comfortable, otherwise I just might be arrested for indecent exposure!

    January 30, 2009 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sarah

    My fiancee and I have the opposite problem! I am always cold, always. And he thinks 60 is hot! So we keep our thermostat low (in both summer and winter) and I put on multiple layers. I have learned he would rather me not be bundled up in 3 sweatpants, 2 pairs of socks, and 3 sweatshirts-and thus he puts on t-shirt and shorts, and we turn the thermostat up slightly. So far no arguments, except in the car-where I keep an extra sweatshirt:)

    At work, I am never without layers-especially my handy sweater

    January 30, 2009 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. GF, Los Angeles

    My mother is always cold (she's in her 70's) and has been for the past 10 years. It can be 90 degrees outside but she'll still put a sweater on. In the winter she'll easily wear 3 to 4 sweaters along with a winter coat indoors! Her thyroid has been checked and nothing was out of the ordinary. She is on blood pressure medication so I wonder if that's the cause of her being so cold all the time.

    January 30, 2009 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tom

    I'm always cold (male- mid-40's). In the winter, I keep the heat at 80 degrees or above. In the summer, I keep the A/C at 85. I laugh at those who think they are saving energy by keeping the A/C 'up to' 78 degrees. I generally think low to mid-80's are perfect. I run when the temperature is in the 90's or even in the low 100's, but almost never when the temperature is below 60 degrees.

    According to the doctor, my thyroid hormones and all my blood tests come out 'normal'.

    January 31, 2009 at 02:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Christina

    I had to laugh when I saw this article because my husband and I have struggled with this for 15 years! He's always hot and I'm always cold. Even during the winter, he runs a fan in our bedroom! I have learned to drink a mug of hot tea before bed, put on socks and warm pajamas, and, if necessary, heat a corn heating pad in the microwave for my feet. As he argues, it's a lot easier for me to get warm than for him to cool down.
    In the past, though, my biggest struggle has been w/ co-workers. I never ask them to raise the thermostat. But the very act of me putting on a sweater infuriated some of them! "How can you be cold?! It's making me hot just looking at you!" What are you going to do?

    January 31, 2009 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. bw

    Female, 30s, always cold. I wear winter clothes from September to May and run a heater in my office into early summer. I am just always cold and my body temp is usually 97.6.

    February 1, 2009 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ZENA SANTORE

    THIS IS OF GREAT INTEREST TO ME AS I HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE PROBLEM OF BEING COLD. FINALLY FOUND OUT I HAVE REYNAULDS DISEASE. I'M SURE MANY HAVE IT AND ARE NOT AWARE. IT CAN BE BROUGHT ON BY COLD WEATHER, AIR CONDITIONING, OR STRESS. I WAS VERY FORTIONATE TO FIND A SPECIALIST.. ONE OF THE FINEST ON THE EASTERN SEABOARD. YOU CAN TAKE MEDICATION FOR THIS PROBLEM...AND I DID FOR YEARS. I MOVED SOUTH YEARS AGO AND WEANED MYSELF FROM THE MEDS. HOWEVER I STILL HAVE PROBLEMS FROM TIME TO TIME. I AVOID AIR CONDITIONING ESPECIALLY IN SUPERMARKETS ( FREEZER AILES ) . I HAVE FOUND THAT THERE ARE FOODS THAT KEEP YOU WARM ALSO...ANYTHING WITH SUGAR ( CARBOHYDRATES ) WILL MAKE YOU WARM OR PLENTY OF GOOD OLD WATER WIL HELP ALSO. AS YOU GROW OLDER IT ONLY GETS WORSE. WARMER CLIMATE REALLY HELPED ME . IN THE NORTH YOU MUST TRAVEL WITH MITTENS .. NO GLOVES...DOWN COATES AND ALWAYS BLANKETS IN YOUR CAR. YOU CAN LOOSE A HAND OR FOOT WITH REYNAULDS IF STRANDED OUT IN LOW TEMPS. TO ALL THAT ARE REALLY COLD WITH HANDS AND FEET TURNING WHITE, PURPLE/BLUSISH ...YOU COULD HAVE REYNAULDS. HOPING THAT YOU CHECK INTO IT.

    February 2, 2009 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lojack

      You don't have to YELL!

      August 19, 2014 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
  11. Terry

    We never had a problem until I went into to menopause, now I run the gammit of hot and cold all night when I try to sleep. My husband has finally figured it out, If he comes to bed and tries to snuggle and I feel toasty hot to the touch, he knows to back away, or a sure sign for him is that I have one leg hanging out of the covers, then he knows I'm having a hot flash. But he's always there for me when I get cold as my body temperature starts to come down, then we can cuddle, till the next time!

    February 3, 2009 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jenna

    I have naturally low blood pressure and my natural body temp. is 97.1 degrees, whereas my husband has high blood pressure and is a body builder, so you can understand where we're coming from. I am constantly, severely cold (my skin actually turns purple)whenever the temp. goes below 75 degrees, whereas my husband sweats at 72. It is extremely annoying, but often the colder partner just needs to wear extra clothes (and don't even think about going to bed without socks! They're not sexy, but they do help to keep the entire body warmer). The hotter people usually can't accomodate as well and being overheated is much more miserable than shivering.

    February 4, 2009 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Bob

    Male 49: I am glad I found this site to find out there are a lot of people like my wife and I.I being the one who feels the chill. I did find out I have an under-active thyroid. But even as a take my medicine and maintain my levels, I find many times feel a dip in some level, whether it be my thyroid or the hypothalamus issue. The discomfort of not feeling warm enough no matter what is to say the least annoying and scary. But I will take all the suggestions I've read on this forum to heart and give them a try. Thanks for your help.

    February 6, 2009 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Joe

    Well, well, well... hot hand and feet...

    It's not just me. I'm 46 and have had crazy hot hands and feet since I was about 17. Although it's not as bad now they still get really hot every once and a while... like right now. At this moment (other then when I'm typing) I have my hands in front of a fan that is blowing cool air from outside. My feet are going to go to the fan next (probably not so cool given that I'm at work – no pun intended). My feet and hands are not hot to touch, but my kids and wife say that I'm really warm. They love snuggling and call me the "human heater". As I said it's been going on for years it has been so bad that at points in my life the only way I could cool them down enough to sleep was to go outside and stand in the snow with bare feet until they cooled down... just to let you know I live in northern Canada where it gets very cold in the winter. I could tell you a lot more stories but I think you get the drift and you have probably been there. As for the car thing, that is still always a problem, for the past few years we have only bought cars where you can adjust the temperature on each side, I wish I could do this with our bed.. LOL. Soooo, I think I'm just whining now, but it feels better to know there are "others" like me out there.. :)

    Thanks for listening...

    May 8, 2009 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Edna Goto

    MY HUSBAND HAS A PROBLEM OF BEING COLD EVEN WHEN IT'S 100 OUTSIDE AND I GET OVER HEATED WHEN THE AIR GETS SHUT OFF.I'AM 70 & MY HUSBAND 79 . HE WAS EVEN COLD WHEN HE WAS YOUNG.

    July 20, 2009 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Tay

    I'm 15, female.... I'm ALWAYS cold, and I can't put my finger on exactly when I started to be cold all of the time, but it's not like it was just recently. I'm a sophmore in highschool, and I do know I was always cold back in middle school, even 6th grade.
    I told my doctor I was always cold and my skin is always purple (I'm really really really pale to begin with) and my doctor just told me that "everyone is different, and I might have a circulation problem in my hands but that's normal". I don't believe her.
    I spend a lot of time searching on google to find out why I'm always cold. I came down to three options: my body has bad circulation, I have a low thyroid count, or I'm anemic. I believe I'm anemic. I also read that you can have blood work done to see if it shows the doctor if you have something wrong with your blood. I mentioned it to my mom, but I haven't gone to get blood work done.
    I hate being cold more than anything. I would rather be hot and sweating all of the time..... I feel like I can't be myself. In school everyday, along with everyday of my life, I wear tight jeans, a tank top (or two), a t shirt, and a hoodie to school. And I freeze and shiver and feel uncomfortable and not wanting to do anything. No one understands me when I say I'm always cold, either. When it comes summer time for school, I'm still wearing my tight jeans and hoodies everyday. It's very very rare that I'll be able to take off my jacket and be in my t shirt.
    What can I do? Does anyone know what my problem may be? I don't want to continue and finish growing up not feeling comfortable, and not feeling at all like myself since I can't even dress the way I want.. Which everyone knows dressing is an important big part in showing and being yourself.
    Help anyone? Thanks in advance!!

    July 31, 2009 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Daniel

    I am having a disagreement with some friends who say: the hotter your natural body temperature is colder you will be in general, and vice versa. Is that correct, or does natural body heat have nothing to do with how you feel in general?

    October 20, 2009 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jennifer

    Tay,

    Have your doctor looked into a diagnosis of Raynaud's.

    I have always been a hot blooded individual. I wear shorts in the snow and the cold does not affect me. I am 39 and have been in perimenopause since my mid 20s.

    I am obese and have recently lost 60 pounds in a short amount of time due to exercise and diet. Since the weight lose my hands get cold easily and at times the whole body.

    Would this be cause by my body trying to compensate for the fat lose and getting used to the new weight or does it have to do with hypothalamus and nothing with the weight lose?

    February 24, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sesa

    My normal temp. is about 97 degrees. But when I get warm it takes forever to cool down. My family is the opposite they love hot weather. It gets to the point sometimes where if i don't find a way to cool down that i'll get headaches or vomit. Even right now i'm warm beacause i took a shower. So I have the window open hoping the cool weather will help♥ It's been this way since i was little.

    March 27, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sophie Sanders

    we have a 5 year old General Electic air conditioner at home, GE makes some of the finest air conditioners out ther.~:.

    July 10, 2010 at 02:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kris

    My husband and I have been married for 38 years and his thermostat is driving me crazy. He claims to be cold in the winter and kicks the thermostat up to 80, but in the summer, if the house is warmer that 70, the air conditioner is set for 60. So, the result of this is: I melt in the winter and freeze in the summer. I cannot believe the difference and I think it really is all in his head! We argue about this every day – I can't stand being so hot and need fresh air. He refuses to use a warm throw in the evenings because he "should be able to sit in his own house without having to use a blanket". Yikes. So our utility bills are through the roof and I'm ready to file for divorce : )

    December 14, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Ben Schwamberger

    Woah this blog is wonderful i love reading your articles. Stay up the great paintings! You understand, many people are looking around for this information, you could help them greatly.

    August 15, 2012 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Monica

    I am ALWAYS hot. Always! I have been since i was a little girl, and i was a tiny skinny little thing. The times i have been pregnant, i literally felt i could set things on fire by simply touching them!
    I have been a desk geek, but hot... a gym freak, but hot.. skinny, hot... a few of extra lbs after pregnancies, and still hot :/
    My hubby on the other hand is forever cold. He uses extra covers and sleeps with long pjs while i wear the least possible and a fan directed at me.
    I keep iced water on my stand, shower before bed, and need air to circulate at all times or i feel like I cant breath, regardless of the temperature.
    Well... so much more, but you get it. Thanks for listening :)

    May 30, 2014 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Lojack

    I'm always hot, but it has nothing to do with air temperature!

    August 19, 2014 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. mandi

    I'm wondering why my hypothalamus chooses to dump buckets when I snuggle with my man. We both start sweating only where our skin is touching. I know it sounds pretty natural to sweat when snuggling, but its feels kinda strange when it's just on a few places. Maybe its our burning love ;) thank you for your article.

    October 4, 2014 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.