If you're always asking yourself, Is it hot in here or is it just me?, you may be wondering if there's a reason your internal thermostat seems to be set to tropical temperatures at all times.
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A higher-than-average temperature doesn't always mean there's something strange going on. "Everyone's body is different," says Deena Adimoolam-Gupta, MD, a New York City-based endocrinologist and internist. Sometimes what some consider "running warmer" is just your normal baseline.
But if feeling hot is a new symptom (or one of many symptoms),and it's impacting your quality of life, it could be a sign of an underlying issue. Here, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta covers the seven most common causes for feeling overheated.
1. You Have a Thyroid Issue
If you frequently feel like a furnace, you might have hyperthyroidism, a condition where your body makes too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include excessive hotness, inability to withstand warm temperatures and/or increased sweating, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
"The exact reason for why excess thyroid hormone leads to these symptoms is unclear, but it may be related to a higher basal metabolic rate or an increase in hormones called catecholamines, which cause vasodilation [a widening of the blood vessels that leads to increased blood flow and a rush of warmth]," she says.
2. You’re Under Stress
Sometimes stress is the source of your sweltering. When you experience a stressor, your body flips into "fight or flight" mode, and your adrenal gland secretes catecholamines (specifically epinephrine and norepinephrine), Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
Catecholamines, which prep your body for the fight or flight response, not only enhance your mental alertness and muscle strength but also increase your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, which results in a warmer body temperature, she says.
3. You’re Ovulating
Ever noticed a spike in sweating during your monthly cycle?
"During the time of ovulation, there is an increase in the hormone progesterone, which leads to an increase in temperature," Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
Indeed, shortly after ovulation, progesterone spikes basal body temperature between 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit, according to a July 2020 peer-reviewed article in StatPearls. While one measly degree might seem like an insignificant amount, it's still enough to make a difference in your comfort level.
4. You’re Going Through Menopause
"Hot flashes and night sweats occur before and during menopause because of changing hormone levels, including estrogen and progesterone, which affect the body's temperature control," Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
Estrogen tends to increase temperature mainly by way of vasodilation (causing more blood flow to the skin and other organs) while, in this case, progesterone lowers your body's thermostat.
"It's the imbalance between these hormones that leads to hot flashes," Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
5. You've Had a Lot of Caffeine
Believe it or not, your cup of coffee could be the culprit for your overheating. Caffeine stimulates the release of catecholamines (the same hormones involved in the "flight or fight" response), Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
Again, catecholamines boost your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, which can all make you feel warm.
6. You’re Pregnant
Turns out that morning sickness isn't the only unpleasant side effect of pregnancy — feeling hot is also a common symptom when you're expecting.
For starters, "estrogen is at its highest levels during pregnancy," Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says. Remember, when estrogen is released, it widens the blood vessels and generates more blood flow to the skin, which will warm you up.
Pregnancy also leads to an increase in blood volume, which makes the heart work even harder (by the eighth week of pregnancy your heart rate is 20 percent faster), Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says. And with this sped-up pulse comes hotter body temps.
And if all that weren't enough, your body also absorbs the heat that the baby produces, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.
7. You’re Taking Certain Medications
Many types of medications can predispose you to heat-related issues, including antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics and diuretics, according to the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH).
That's because drugs can interfere with your body's normal thermoregulation. For example, some medications affect the hypothalamus (the region of the brain that sets normal body temperature) while others can disrupt your capacity to sweat (which impedes the body's ability to cool itself), per the NCCEH.
What to Do Next
If feeling the heat is a new symptom that's getting in the way of your everyday life, it's possible you may be experiencing one of the conditions listed above — or it could be something else, or nothing at all.
Rather than attempt to self-diagnose, set up some time with your health care practitioner, who can help address your concerns and help you figure out possible next steps.