Cold Hands and Feet

Some people wear mittens and heavy socks all year round, even in warm weather, indoors and out. Their hands and feet are always cold. A number of things cause this, such as:

  • Poor circulation due to coronary heart disease.
  • Raynaud’s disease (disorder that affects the flow of blood to the fingers and sometimes to the toes).
  • Frostbite.
  • Working with vibrating equipment (like a jackhammer)
  • A side effect of taking certain medications.
  • An underlying disease affecting blood flow in the tiny blood vessels of the skin. (Women smokers may be prone to this last condition).
  • Stress.

Symptoms to look for are:

  • Fingers or toes turning pale white or blue, then red, in response to cold.
  • Tingling or numbness.
  • Pain during the white phase of discoloration.

Self-Care Tips

If wearing gloves and wool socks and staying indoors where it’s warm is a nuisance or doesn’t help, try these other warm-up tips:

  • Don’t smoke. It impairs circulation.
  • Avoid caffeine. It constricts blood vessels.
  • Avoid handling cold objects. Use ice tongs to pick up ice cubes, for instance.
  • With fingers outstretched, swing your arms in large circles, like a baseball pitcher warming up for a game. This may increase blood flow to the fingers. (Skip this tip if you have bursitis or back problems).
  • Do not wear footwear that is tight-fitting.
  • Wiggle your toes. It may help keep them warm as a result of increased blood flow.
  • Practice a relaxation technique, such as biofeedback.

Questions to Ask

Have your hands or feet had prolonged exposure to subfreezing temperatures which may have resulted in frostbite? (Frostbite symptoms are tingling and redness followed by paleness (white or bluish appearance) and numbness of affected areas).

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Do your hands or feet turn pale, then blue then red, get painful and numb when exposed to the cold or stress?
Yes: Call Doctor

Provide Self-Care

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021