My child has icy cold hands. Can it be cured?

The human body has several mechanisms to maintain its core temperature at a certain level, so that vital organs, such as the brain and heart, can function optimally.

Q: My four-year-old grandson's palms are icy cold when he is in an air-conditioned room. What are the causes of this condition? Can it be cured?

What you have described is most likely a normal natural response by your grandson's body when exposed to cooler temperatures.

Hence, this is not a condition that needs to be "cured".

The human body has several mechanisms to maintain its core temperature at a certain level, so that vital organs, such as the brain and heart, can function optimally.

When exposed to an air-conditioned environment, your grandson's body acts to prevent heat loss and keep these vital organs warm.

Small vessels near the skin surface narrow and redirect blood from the skin to blood vessels deeper inside the body.

Blood is commonly diverted not just from the hands, but also from the nose and toes. These can feel cold in the process too.

When the temperature of his environment increases, the blood vessels near the skin surface relax and blood returns, causing the skin of a person's hands to warm up.

If your grandson is uncomfortable having cold hands, switch off the air-conditioning so his hands can warm up naturally.

In a condition called Raynaud's phenomenon, exposure to cold environments or stress can result in cold hands and feet, with associated colour changes in the fingers and toes.

They can turn white due to excessive spasms of the blood vessels, then red and finally blue or purple.

The spasms obstruct the amount of oxygen that can be transported to the fingers and toes and can potentially damage the skin tissue.

However, Raynaud's phenomenon is very rare in children. It tends to manifest in adults, especially women, and in countries with cold climates.

Your grandson is very unlikely to have Raynaud's phenomenon, unless his cold hands also display the specific colour changes I have described above, in which case he should be seen by a paediatrician.

Dr Michael Lim
Consultant at the department of paediatrics at the National University Hospital


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