Is it hot in here, or is it just you? No, really, that was a serious question for you and the hordes of people who are always hot. You might be on the warm side if you're always the one always asking your friends to jack up the air conditioning or roll up in a tank top while your friends are wrapping themselves in slankets and crawling inside tauntauns just to stay warm. Since all human bodies are supposed to be the same basic temperature, why does yours always feel like it's set to "tropical"? Is there something horribly wrong with you when you feel hot all the time?
"An internal thermostat in the brain called the hypothalamus is responsible for controlling body temperature, which is typically 98.6°F (37°C)," says Dr. Tania Elliott, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. "Core body temperature may dip slightly below that when a person is asleep, and climb slightly above that in the evening, right before they go to bed."
Because of these fluctuations, it's important not to get too caught up on the numbers, says Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, D.O., a physician at Parsley Health Los Angeles. "A 'normal' body temperature is really more of a variable range that's dependent on several factors, including age, physical activity level, and even your menstrual cycle," Dr. Tolentino says, adding that range is typically between 97 and 99 degrees. "A normal average for you may be different than a normal average for someone else."
When you're one of the (un)lucky folks who slants toward that above-average normal, it's important to cool off, says Dr. Daniel Berliner, MD, a physician with the virtual health platform PlushCare. Dr. Berliner tells Bustle that letting yourself literally chill out will "allow the body to function, the brain to think clearly, and to allow the body’s thermoregulatory system to once again work correctly."
While some reasons that your best friend calls you a furnace are linked to worrisome health problems, others are nothing to be concerned about. How can you tell the difference? Check out these seven reasons you might always feel hot; wring the sweat out of your shirt for the fourth time today, then and figure out which ones applies to you.
1. It Could Be Hyperthyroidism
Spurred by signals from the hypothalamus, the thyroid produces some of the hormones that regulate the body's metabolism and temperature, according to Harvard Health. Typically, Dr. Tolentino says, the hypothalamus is effective at keeping your temperature stable. "Depending on the signals it's receiving, the hypothalamus enlists the help of your blood vessels, sweat glands, and muscles to regulate body temperature," she tells Bustle.
But when you have an overactive thyroid, the hypothalamus isn't always communicating properly. The thyroid can then make too many of these hormones, causing your body's internal processes to speed up. Putting all your physical systems on fast forward can leave you feeling sweaty and overheated all the time, no matter what you're doing. And hyperthyroidism isn't rare — according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, roughly one in every hundred people in the United States live with hyperthyroidism.
Other symptoms of having an overactive thyroid include irregular heartbeat and menstruation, insomnia, anxiety, diarrhea or frequent bowel movements, hair loss, high blood pressure and muscle weakness, according to the American Thyroid Association.
Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to long-term health issues like osteoporosis and heart failure, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. But the treatment for hyperthyroidism is simple and far from scary — almost all thyroid problems can be easily managed by taking some thyroid-balancing medication prescribed by a primary care physician. So if you think your thyroid might be off, head over to your doctor and get your thyroid levels checked out.
2. You Might Be Ovulating
If you're a uterus-having human, a certain monthly spike in hormones can mess around with your internal thermostat. Estrogen, which can make you feel colder, is in charge for the first half of the menstrual cycle; but mid-cycle, ovulation happens and progesterone tags in. Progesterone can leave you feeling a bit overheated.
Other signs that you might be ovulating include light cramping, breast pain or tenderness, and increased sex drive. While getting a little bit sweaty during the second half of your cycle is a totally regular bodily process, you might want to invest in a fan, some ice packs, and put on your favorite Marvel movie to keep you company while you're not feeling so hot (metaphorically).
3. It Could Be Menopause
"Many conditions, such as hot flashes caused by hormonal changes, can make you feel overheated because they're affecting the body's complex system for regulating temperature," Dr. Tolentino tells Bustle. Though most menopausal people experience hot flashes, doctors are not entirely certain why it happens. But just like the hypothalamus responds to stress, this part of the brain often becomes more sensitive to small changes in temperature after menopause.
When you're going through menopause, the National Institute on Aging says you might also experience vaginal dryness, night sweats, sleep problems, and thinning hair. If you find that the side effects of menopause (including hot flashes) are a major pain or triggering for gender dysphoria, a doctor or other medical professional may have some ideas about how to cope.
4. It May Be Stress
According to Dr. Tolentino, stress and anxiety might be major reasons you're feeling too hot to handle. Even though your hypothalamus usually does a good job at keeping you somewhere between too warm and too cool, it can go a little off-kilter when you're stressed out. Being under a lot of pressure can also trigger your body's fight-or-flight response, which draws blood to your core. For some people, the rush of blood to the torso and head can warm you up a little too much. For others, the same response registers as chills in their extremities (because your fingers and toes suddenly have less blood to keep them warm).
Pay attention to your body's reactions (and your sweat glands) to find out if you're one of the humans that heats up when you're worked up. Ice cold water to the face and neck can help ease your panic and calm your system back down (not to mention cool you off right away).
If your sweatiness is accompanied by headaches, fatigue, stomach or chest pains, anxiety, or difficulty focusing, you might want to tune in to your stress levels, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Consulting with your doctor about ways to make your life less stressful — including possibly seeing a therapist or seeking other kinds of mental health help — can help get you the support you deserve.
5. It Could Be A Lot Of Caffeine Or Spicy Food
"Consumption of caffeine can make your body feel warmer than usual," Dr. Tolentino says. Especially if you work out or go to a high-stress meeting after your iced latte or soda, the extra heat may well accompany the jitters.
Speaking of food and drink that makes you jump around a bit, your latest battle with your father-in-law's famous hot wings may not have had smoke literally shoot out of your ears — but hot-tasting foods can make you feel like you're standing close by your grandma's fireplace. Spicy food stimulates the same receptors on our skin that normally process physical heat, so chowing down can result in feeling physically overheated and sweaty. Listen to your body and pay attention to when your liquid breakfast and spicy dinner get you all bent out of shape (and maybe modify your caffeine- and spice-levels accordingly).
6. It Could Be Your Level Of Physical Activity
You know that lunchtime game of pickup basketball is going to get you all sweaty. But if you make movement a habit, you might start running warmer... all the time. Being physically active — and especially having significant muscle mass — raises your resting metabolism. This can spike your overall body temperature.
So if your resting heart rate is lower than it was before you started working out as a habit and you can climb the steps out of the subway without getting enormously winded, you might want to pack extra water to rehydrate after losing all that sweat on your daily adventures.
7. You May Be Pregnant
When someone gets pregnant, their blood volume increases — sometimes by as much as 50%. To handle this sudden traffic jam on its blood freeways (AKA your veins), your blood vessels will dilate, which can make you feel hotter. According to Planned Parenthood, some other signs you might be pregnant include missed periods, nausea, breast tenderness, and fatigue.
"If you’re pregnant, it's a good idea to start dressing in layers so you have the ability to add or subtract excess clothing as needed throughout the day," Dr. Tolentino says. "Breathable, lightweight materials like linen or cotton can also help you to stay cool, as can moisture-wicking fabrics like those used in activewear apparel."
Dr. Tania Elliott, MD, clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health
Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, DO, physician at Parsley Health Los Angeles
Dr. Daniel Berliner, MD, physician with PlushCare
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