November 24, 2020

Why Does Your Body Temperature Change as You Age?

And 4 things you can do to combat heat and cold intolerances

elderly woman uses weights for resistance training

You know the stereotypes: the grandparents’ house that’s 85 degrees in July or the uncle who wears sandals in January. Turns out, these behaviors are rooted in science.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

While some signs of aging are visible (cue gray hairs and wrinkles), others are stealthier, including feeling hotter or colder as you get older.

“As we age, our body distribution changes — including our body fat percentage, muscle mass, skin and sweat glands. These changes can affect our body’s thermal regulation,” says geriatric medicine specialist Ken Koncilja, MD. “As a result, we may not recognize temperature swings as well. Our core body temperature may even change.”

What causes heat and cold intolerance?

Temperature intolerances tend to happen in your 70s or 80s. If they happen earlier, certain medical conditions may be to blame, including:

  • Thyroid diseases: Thyroid conditions can develop in your teens. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common type of hypothyroidism in the U.S. Hashimoto’s can make you feel cold.
  • Head and neck cancers: Radiation treatment that affects your thyroid can alter how you perceive temperature. “Thyroid hormones help raise body temperature,” says Dr. Koncilja.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: Parkinson’s disease and dementia can affect how hot or cold you feel.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Conditions such as scurvy, vitamin B12 deficiency or folic acid deficiency affect body temperature.

“This is something that I often bring up with patients during annual wellness visits,” says Dr. Koncilja. “If something is off about your heat or cold tolerance, let your healthcare provider know.”


Four ways to reduce body temperature changes as you age

If your heat and cold intolerances are age-related, Dr. Koncilja recommends the following:

Stay hydrated: As we age, our thirst reflex diminishes, too. That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of liquids, no matter the weather.

Watch the weather: Pay attention to the heat index in the summer and wind chill factor in the winter. “When the heat index is above a certain number, local health departments will issue warnings for older adults and small children,” notes Dr. Koncilja. “It’s important to have access to shade. And know where to go in a heat wave if you don’t have air conditioning, such as a gym, school, church or another resource in your city or county.”

Build muscle: “You can build muscle at any age. Use resistance training as training for your everyday life. It makes a difference for body temperature regulation (thermoregulation).”


Dress for success: In warm weather, wear light, cotton clothing. In cold weather, choose warm materials like wool. Wear gloves and hats that cover your ears. “Frostbite is common in older adults, and it can happen quickly,” adds Dr. Koncilja. “Footwear matters. Get warm socks and good quality, warm boots or shoes.”

Related Articles

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Two people standing in the cold.
November 29, 2023
10 Colds Not To Catch This Winter

The flu, RSV, COVID-19, pneumonia and more typically circulate during cold weather months

Parent breastfeeding baby on bed, against the headboard.
November 27, 2023
Looking for Foods To Increase Your Milk Supply? Think Big Picture

No single food will increase your milk, but an overall healthy diet will help

Parent uses manual baby aspirator to open up nasal passages of baby.
November 22, 2023
Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator

Keeping your baby’s airways clear of mucus helps with breathing and feeding

Two different vaccines and needles displayed in foreground.
November 22, 2023
Which Vaccines Can You Get at the Same Time?

Getting routine vaccinations together can save you time and may be more effective

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 22, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Toddler drinking from a cup while at the table during dinner.
November 21, 2023
Toddler Drinks — What Does the Research Say About These Products?

They aren’t unhealthy, but they’re probably a waste of money

person drinking coffee at computer at night
November 15, 2023
Is It Bad To Drink Coffee Late at Night?

Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, a late-night cup may be just fine

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try