Freezing • Typical of illnesses or shortages

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Author: Jan Groh, medical author
Last update:
February 04, 2020

Freezing is a natural process in which the body tries to balance the temperature difference between body and ambient temperature. However, freezing and sensitivity to cold can also be a symptom of a disease, for example with fever. Constant freezing is often due to certain deficiency states.

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The body temperature is regulated by the temperature center in the brain. When freezing, the body tries to compensate for the difference from a cold ambient temperature, as a result of which the veins in the feet and hands are less supplied with blood, while at the same time protecting the work of the internal organs. Because the blood flow in the body is changed by controlling the blood vessel diameter so that warm blood especially the vital organs (Brain, heart, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract) benefits (centralization of the circulation).

Typical reaction to freezing is Tremble the whole body. The tremors are the result of muscle tension that generates heat. So trembling is ultimately one Protective mechanism of the organismto raise the body temperature again.

Ginger, warmth, food: top tips for frostbite

The most common when freezing goose bumps is a leftover from human history. It represents an attempt to straighten a fur that no longer exists in order to improve the insulation against the ambient cold. While humans lost their fur in the course of evolution, the muscles for straightening their hair have been preserved. When you freeze, these muscles become active and create the typical goose bumps.

It's not just cold that freezes us: causes at a glance

The most common cause of freezing is mild hypothermia due to a low ambient temperature or insufficient clothing.

Freezing can also have other causes. We typically freeze when we have a fever, because the ambient temperature is felt to be too cold due to the increased body temperature. The typical one chills arises when the body tries to generate heat using muscle movement.

Other causes of (constant) freezing:

  • Hypothermia: Typical are tremors and increased breathing and circulation, slow breathing with more pronounced hypothermia, less pain, tiredness, loss of consciousness; possibly 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, dizziness, reduced performance.

  • Underactive thyroid: Possible symptoms are constant freezing without fever, fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, deep voice.

  • Iron deficiency anemia: Possible symptoms include pale skin, constant freezing, deteriorating performance, hair loss, chapped lips.

  • low body weight: Malnourished people have little fat. Your body is therefore poorly insulated against heat loss. For this reason, constant freezing is often found with anorexia (anorexia nervosa) or exhaustion (cachexia) in the context of cancer.

  • large-scale injuries the skin, for example in case of burns

  • Raynaud's syndrome: Circulatory disorder that affects the fingers and toes

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

Constant freezing should be checked with a doctor

Freezing is a subjective and mostly harmless sensation. Constant freezing or freezing in connection with other symptoms can be the result of an underlying illness.

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

Freezing may indicate a medical emergency

Hypothermia – for example after breaking into the water while ice skating – usually requires that Notification of an emergency doctor (reachable on number 112), He will take the appropriate diagnostic measures to measure body temperature and check the cardiovascular functions and initiate further treatment steps. According to the German Red Cross, first-aiders should take immediate measures: take the person concerned to a warm place, remove wet, cold clothes, but wrap them in blankets no Apply active heat (e.g. with a hot water bottle or by rubbing). Warm tea (no alcoholic beverages) is only recommended if the person concerned is conscious.

With these symptoms to the doctor!

Lifeline / Wochit

Constant freezing or freezing as a symptom of illnesses

In order to get to the bottom of the cause of frequent freezing, recording the medical history when visiting a doctor is essential. Inform the doctor whether you have freezing frequently or what other symptoms you have observed. Further measures:

  • Measuring fever provides information about body temperature.

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

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

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

How to measure your blood pressure correctly

How to measure your blood pressure correctly

Treatment: Stop acute or constant freezing

Freezing is treated by increasing body temperature. If there is an underlying disease, it is important to treat it specifically.

Acute freezing is counteracted by passive or active heating:

  • Passive heating prevents further heat loss as much as possible, for example through a dry, warm environment, additional clothing or wrapping in blankets. The body warms itself from the inside.

  • Active warming, 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 heat probes that are introduced into the chest.

  • to download the blood pressure table

    Would you like to document your blood pressure regularly? A blood pressure table will help you and your doctor determine dangerous fluctuations and peaks.

Also chronic freezing is treated briefly by passive or active warming. In the medium term, recurrent freezing should be managed by treating the underlying disorder. This may be necessary with low blood pressure or with an underactive thyroid. In iron deficiency anemia, iron tablets are usually given over a period of up to six months.

Is it about one acute hypothermia emergency (contact an emergency doctor over 112), the treatment depends on the extent of hypothermia. In the event of freezing, trembling and an accelerated heartbeat, it is usually recommended to warm up the affected person (take off wet clothes, blankets, warm drinks; no alcohol). If hypothermia has already progressed (slow breathing, muscle stiffness, reduced sensation of pain, tiredness or loss of consciousness), caution should be exercised during active warming – as a rule, then no unauthorized, active warm-up attempts be undertaken. You can find detailed information on the measures for hypothermia on the website of the German Red Cross.

Basically, moderate and severe hypothermia should be treated by a doctor in a clinic if possible, since serious complications can arise during the course of the warming. For example, rewarming too quickly can cause a sudden influx of cold blood from the outside of the circuit. Under certain circumstances, this can temporarily lower the temperature in the core of the body and trigger cardiac function disorders. In case of doubt, hypothermia always requires the emergency call to be activated.

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