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Why do girls get cold?

Girls often complain about feeling cold more frequently than boys. This common phenomenon has several explanations that relate to female physiology, clothing choices, and activities. Getting to the root of why girls get cold more easily can help parents and girls themselves understand these temperature differences between genders.

Higher Surface Area to Volume Ratio

One major reason why girls tend to get colder than boys is due to a higher surface area to volume ratio. This ratio compares the volume (or mass) of an object to its surface area. Since heat is lost through the surface of the body, a higher surface area to volume ratio means more heat is lost relative to overall body mass.

Girls and women tend to have a higher ratio than men and boys for a few key reasons:

  • Less muscle mass – Muscle generates heat, so less muscle means less internal heat generation.
  • More subcutaneous fat – Fat lies below the skin so contributes to surface area but not internal volume as much.
  • Shorter stature – For the same mass, shorter people have more surface area.

These physical differences mean that pound for pound, girls will lose more body heat than boys, leading to feeling colder at the same temperatures.

Blood Flow Changes During Menstruation

Hormone fluctuations during a girl’s menstrual cycle can also impact body temperature regulation. In the luteal phase leading up to menstruation, female sex hormones progesterone and estrogen drop to their lowest levels.

This hormone change triggers increased blood flow to the extremities in many women. More blood flow to the hands and feet pulls heat away from the body core. As a result, cold hands and feet are common premenstrual symptoms. Lower overall core body temperature also often occurs.

Therefore, girls may feel colder than usual in the days leading up to their period as hormones ebb and flow. Tracking menstrual cycles can help girls understand when they may need extra layers.

Lower Metabolic Rates

Resting metabolic rate is the number of calories the body burns just to sustain basic life functions. This metabolic rate tends to be lower in girls versus boys after puberty kicks in.

On average, adult men have a resting metabolic rate 10-15% higher than adult women. A lower metabolic rate equals less internal heat generation, which can translate to feeling colder.

Less Insulation from Body Fat

Although girls have more subcutaneous fat than boys, they often have less overall insulation from body fat. Men on average have more visceral fat, which is the fat that accumulates around vital organs deep in the abdomen. This visceral fat acts like an inner jacket to keep organs warm.

Women tend to store less visceral fat due to hormonal differences. With less deep core insulation, women can be more prone to feeling chilly than men with the same amount of subcutaneous fat.

Clothing Choices

Culturally, it is more socially acceptable for women to wear skirts, dresses, shorts and other clothing that exposes more skin than men. Areas like legs, arms and shoulders are left uncovered while men often remain fully covered.

More exposed skin means more surface area for losing body heat. Even when wearing pants, women’s fashion tends to prioritize form over function. Tighter clothing also discourages adding warmer layers underneath. These clothing choices can leave girls colder than boys who regularly wear looser fitting and more insulating outfits.

Less Physical Activity

On the whole, girls tend to be less physically active than boys, especially in the teen years. Exercise generates internal heat, while sedentary activities lead to heat loss. Kids who are running around playing sports outside will feel warmer than those sitting still.

Cultural norms and differences in interests often result in girls spending more time being sedentary. Since activity level impacts heat production, lower exercise levels will cause girls to feel colder more quickly.

Smaller Hands and Feet

Hands and feet have many blood vessels close to the surface for heat loss. Someone with smaller hands and feet has less volume to surface area. This morphology allows the hands and feet to act like radiators to help cool the body.

Girls and women tend to have smaller hands and feet on average than males. As a result, they will lose heat more quickly from these extremities and feel coolness there faster.

Anemia or Low Iron

Some girls are prone to iron deficiency or anemia due tolosses during menstruation. Low iron reduces the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body and to the extremities. Poor blood circulation can prevent heat from reaching the hands and feet efficiently.

Anemia can also cause general fatigue, increasing sensitivity to feeling cold. Boosting iron intake through diet or supplements helps improve oxygen delivery and may lessen cold sensitivity.

Thyroid Issues

The thyroid gland controls metabolism. When it is underactive, hypothyroidism can develop. Hypothyroidism slows metabolism, resulting in lower internal heat production. It also reduces blood flow to the extremities.

Girls are at higher risk for developing thyroid issues than boys, especially in puberty and menopause transition times. Feeling cold, even with proper insulation, can be a symptom of a thyroid problem.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Some girls have a condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon. It causes the extremities to constrict blood vessels as a reaction to cold. This exaggerates heat loss, making hands and feet feel extremely cold and numb.

Raynaud’s is more common in girls due to hormone impacts on vascular function. It can make girls feel chilled even when appropriately dressed for the temperature.

Anxiety or Stress

Mental states like anxiety, fear and stress activate the body’s fight-or-flight response. As part of this response, blood redirects away from the extremities to the core. This preservation reflex causes hands and feet to get cold.

Girls experiencing acute or chronic stress may complain of feeling cold more frequently. Managing stress and anxiety can help improve temperature perceptions.

Poor Sleep Habits

Lack of quality sleep disrupts the body’s temperature regulation. Nighttime shivering and feeling cold is common when sleep deprived. Girls at risk for insomnia or with difficult school/activity schedules may skimp on sleep.

Ensuring girls get adequate, consistent sleep will help prevent abnormal coldness. Room temperature may also need to be adjusted to support proper sleep.

Low Calories or Nutrients

Eating too few calories or inadequate nutrients signals to the body that it needs to conserve resources. In response, metabolism slows along with heat production and circulation to the skin and extremities.

Girls who are dieting, have eating disorders, or simply eat poorly can feel chronically cold as a result. Meeting caloric needs and getting nutrients supports healthy temperature regulation.

Medical Conditions

Besides hormonal disorders, some medical conditions make girls more prone to feeling cold. Anemia, diabetes, hypoadrenalism, cystic fibrosis, poor circulation disorders, and autoimmune diseases are a few examples.

If chronic coldness persists without explanation or appropriate warming methods, consulting a doctor can identify if an underlying issue needs treatment.

Tips for Staying Warmer

Clothing/Bedding Lifestyle Environment
Layer warm fabrics like wool, fleece, cashmere Exercise regularly Bump up thermostat temperature
Wear insulated boots, gloves Eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet Use portable heaters as needed
Choose long underwear bottoms Treat thyroid disorders Install insulation to prevent drafts
Use thick blankets and comforters Manage stress Close windows and doors
Wear socks, hats, scarves Take warm baths Sit near heat vents
Drink warm fluids Use microwavable heating pads


Feeling cold frequently is a common complaint among girls and women. Several physiological and lifestyle factors contribute to girls getting chilled more easily than boys in the same environments. Knowing the root causes can help girls make adjustments to stay warmer. Simple solutions like additional insulation, managing health conditions, and bumping up thermostat temperatures can help girls feel more comfortable and less cold.