It is normal for the hands, feet, nose, and ears to feel cold before other parts of the body. This is because it usually takes longer for blood to circulate to these extremities, especially in cold temperatures.Cold nose is usually normal and not cause for concern. However, some health conditions may result in a persistently cold nose.
What Causes a Cold Nose?
Cold nose is not uncommon. As an extremity that remains uncovered most of the time, the nose is prone to getting chilly. There are various reasons why someone might have a cold nose. The nose does not have a lot of insulating fat and will be one of the first body parts that feels cold. The nose is likely to feel cold first when temperatures dip because it is composed mainly of cartilage tissue and does not have a lot of insulating fat. The body conserves heat and energy by reducing blood flow to the extremities in cold temperatures or weather. Instead, the blood is directed toward the vital organs to keep them warm and to allow them to function properly. The reduced blood flow to the hands, feet, ears, and nose causes them to feel cooler than, for example, the stomach or chest.
Common Cold Prefers Cold Noses
Cold viruses prefer the cooler temperatures of the nose. The temperature of the cells lining the nose are cooler than other less exposed parts of the body. This could explain why the rhinovirus causes colds and is less able to cause more serious lung infections, like influenza does.
Rhinovirus, the most common cause for colds, is better able to reproduce at temperatures just below the body’s 37 degrees Celsius. When the virus invades warmer cells, the host cells produce significantly more interferons -- proteins that "interfere" with the spread of a virus by warning healthy cells of its presence and setting off an immune response. In the cooler nasal cavity cells, this warning system is less efficient however, and allows the virus to spread more easily. The immune system becomes weaker in a cold nose and gives the virus more opportunities to replicate. Two important tools - a set of sensors that detect infection and chemicals that coordinate the immune response - are less effective at cooler temperatures. The lower the temperature, it seems the lower the innate immune response to viruses.
Another common reason for a cold nose is reduced blood flow to the skin of the nose. If the nose feels cold for much longer than the rest of the body, the blood flow to the nose may be reduced.
There are many causes for reduced circulation, and it may be a sign of another health issue. The most common causes include obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, and arterial issues. Persistently high blood glucose can cause damage to nerves and blood vessels, affecting circulation throughout the body. When cholesterol blocks some of the arteries, it can result in poor circulation and blood doesn't flow efficiently through the blood vessels. These can cause a cold nose.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormones that control the way the body uses energy. In this low thyroid hormone state, the body tries to take steps to conserve heat and energy, thus causing many slow metabolism symptoms, including a cold nose.
An autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis damages the thyroid gland and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Other causes of hypothyroidism include surgical removal of the thyroid gland, congenital hypothyroidism and inflammation of the thyroid.
Raynaud’s disease causes excessive narrowing of blood vessels, which results in little or no blood flow in the extremities. It is usually triggered by exposure to cold or even stress. The disorder usually affects the fingers and toes, but it can also occur in the nose and ears. The skin may turn white and then blue, briefly, during an attack. The affected areas may turn red and be accompanied by throbbing, tingling or numbness once the blood flow returns.
One symptom of congestive heart failure (a heart that can't pump enough blood) is cold skin. That is because inadequate blood flow can make the affected areas feel cold.
Frostbite is a skin damage that occurs from overexposure to extreme cold. Frostbite commonly affects extremities such as the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, or toes. Before developing frostbite on the nose, it would be unbearably cold. Later, after the tissue is damaged, the cold turns to a burning sensation with increased pain and numbness.
A cold nose could also be a sign of working too hard. The nose temperature dropped by an average of 1°C as the mental tasks became more challenging.
If your nose is cold, it means you’re stressed. Stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, and strangely, that includes a cold nose. A study of the physiological responses to mental workloads found that facial temperatures, especially around the nose, correlated with the workloads.
Touch your nose. If it is cold, you may need to calm down. Stress causes a cold nose (and face). It was found that the effect is most pronounced above the sinuses around the nose, and that facial temperatures were reduced by carrying out tasks of increasing difficulty.
Blood drains from the face when we are under stress. When people are fully focused on a task, their breathing rate changes as the autonomic nervous system takes over. There may also be a diversion of blood flow from the face to the cerebral cortex as the mental demand increases.
Exposure to Extreme Cold
Being in cold temperatures, for example, during outdoor sports, can result in a cold nose. When prolonged exposure causes the body to lose heat faster than it can generate it, the result is hypothermia. This occurs when the body’s heat is lower than the normal body temperature of 37°C. Early symptoms include shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination and confusion.
It has been demonstrated that stress conditions for babies such as a brief mother-infant separation cause the nasal skin temperature to drop. Changes in skin temperature may be taken as a representative sample of bodily reaction correlated with emotional changes. Studying the effects of loud noise on nasal skin temperature showed that the nasal skin temperature under 100 dB white noise decreased by about 0.5-degree C. However, under 45 dB no significant change was found.
When a cold nose is the result of an untreated underlying health condition, it can lead to further complications. Poor circulation may lead to tissue damage. Heart failure may lead to organ failure, stroke, or death. Frostbite may lead to necrosis (tissue death). Stress may lead to respiratory, heart, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and nervous system problems
If you are prone to a cold nose, you can try preventative measures, like wearing a face mask or scarf over your nose. In addition, keeping your internal body temperature warm will help. Bundle up and try fueling your body with warm foods and beverages. Warm compress. Heat water. Saturate a clean rag and apply it to your nose until your nose warms up.
If you have underlying health conditions, managing them will help prevent the side effects of a cold nose. Avoid smoking as tobacco constricts blood vessels, causing a feeling of cold extremities. Smoking makes clots more likely to form, which can cause circulation problems.