Why Do I Have An Icy Cold Feeling In My Chest? (Possible Causes & Treatments)

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A cold and tingling sensation in your chest could be due to many factors. One common reason could be a pulmonary infection or disease or side effects of anxiety or fear. If you’re unsure of what to do, you may want to check your temperature first because you could be running a fever. After that, taking rest, increasing your fluid intake, and keeping yourself warm would be the best treatment you could get at home.

Most people who experience an icy cold feeling in their chest find out that it is due to complications in their pulmonary system.

However, it’s not uncommon that the same symptom would occur when you feel anxious or worried over something.

You may want to look back if something has been bothering you lately, or is it something you got from your surroundings?

Factors causing a cold feeling in your chest

1. Acute bronchitis (chest cold)

While this may sound complicated, it doesn’t cause you severe complications if treated well.

This happens due to a virus that invades your airways or the bronchial tubes in your lungs, which causes swelling and inflammation.

A young man is clenching his sore throat which is hurting, a sign he might have acute bronchitis.

Mucus or a thick fluid then forms, causing a blockage in your airways.

This then lets you have a heavy and cold or congested feeling in your chest which could later turn into coughs. 

Acute bronchitis is also commonly known as a chest cold. Below are the common symptoms of having a chest cold:

  • Chest congestion and soreness
  • Feeling tired and achy
  • Cold heavy feeling in head and chest
  • Headache and fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • A sore throat
  • A stuffy, leaky nose
  • Dry cough, which then produces more mucus  

Unlike chronic bronchitis, a chest cold would only last for a few days, taking up to 2 weeks.

You may still experience symptoms like coughing but with lesser mucus this time. 

Antibiotics won’t treat acute bronchitis as it is not due to a bacterial infection.

It will eventually pass on its own. However, you may want to take care of yourself to avoid serious complications.

Below are some of the things you could do to treat yourself at home:

  • Get yourself enough sleep
  • Stay well-hydrated (if possible, avoid extremely cold drinks)
  • Drink a cough medicine
  • Use decongestants and/or humidify the air
  • Stay away from cigarette smoke, dusty places, and heavy fumes
  • Drink tea with honey

While you could get acute bronchitis from a viral infection, your exposure to secondhand smoke and/or allergens like dust particles in the air and heavy, strong fumes could also be the culprit of the disease.

Chest cold vs. COVID-19

Below are the common differences between the symptoms of a person having a chest cold or being infected with a coronavirus (specifically SARS-CoV-2).

Chest ColdCOVID-19
Fever and headaches are rareFever and headaches are common
Diarrhea does not occurDiarrhea rarely occurs
Sore throat and achy feelings often occur Sore throat and achy feelings sometimes occur
A runny nose is commonA runny nose seldom occurs
Sneezing is commonNo sneezing occurs
Cough with phlegm or mucusDry cough, shallow breaths, or breathlessness
Symptoms are mild and will stay mildSymptoms could start mild and worsen


Patients with a chest cold will, at most, get better within 7 to 10 days if treated well. However, if your symptoms worsen or persist, consider getting a COVID test.

Other symptoms of coronavirus infection include loss of sense of taste or smell, discoloration and/or paleness of skin, fingers, and nails, and mild to severe rashes.

Please stay at home and isolate yourself. Call on your doctor immediately.

2. Pneumonia

This is another case of a pulmonary infection caused by germs or viruses from the air you breathe.

In some cases, this occurs when acute bronchitis isn’t cured or treated.

If you have mild pneumonia, you may experience these symptoms:

  • Heavy cough, which may produce greenish, yellow, or even bloody phlegm
  • Lower than normal body temperature and/or high fever
  • Cold sensations and shaking chills
  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Rapid and shallow breathing

Other symptoms like nausea or vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite are signs that the air sacs of your lungs are infected.

The phlegm that forms in your lungs may disrupt the flow of oxygen in your system, which will cause a high fever and shaking cold.

If you show signs of mild pneumonia, doctors will prescribe you antibiotics (if it is due to a bacterial infection).

You may want to increase your fluid intake, get enough rest, and have an air humidifier to ease the heavy feeling in your chest.

In case of severe pneumonia, you may have to admit yourself to a hospital.

3. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can cause discomfort in the upper part of your body, including your upper chest area, one or both of your upper limbs, hands, armpits, upper back, and neck.

It may be due to compression of your blood vessels and/or nerves in the tight passageways of your lower neck and upper chest area (or the thoracic outlet).

Signs and symptoms vary depending on the affected areas. However, the most common types include:

  • Pain, numbness, and cold tingling sensation radiates below the shoulder down towards the hand.
  • Skin discoloration (paleness, bluishness, or even redness) with cold sensation if the affected area includes the vascular nerves.
  • Arm pain and swelling, possibly due to blood clots

Treatments for the syndrome usually include stretching the muscles in your chest, strengthening your shoulder muscles, and head and neck alignment modifications.

Changes in your diet for weight loss (overweight patients) will reduce compression in the neck and chest area. Doctors may prescribe you to intake some medications.

4. Anxiety, fear, and hyperventilation

Anxiety

Cool sensations in your body may be due to the reaction of your nervous system to external factors.

For instance, the body activates your fight and flight response when deeply anxious or worried about something.

This causes an adrenaline rush in your nervous system, sending chills down your spine that heat your body and cause you to sweat.

Once the cool air of your surroundings touches your skin or goes through your skin pores, you will feel very cold.

Fear

It Is common to feel fear before your anxiety attacks. Fear triggers the fight and flight response of your nervous system.

When you panic out of fear, that usually causes your body to experience chills in your nerves, thus, sending a cold feeling to your entire skin.

There are no specific treatments for the cold feeling you get due to anxiety.

The best thing you can do is make sure you control your feelings and seek help from a psychiatrist if severe symptoms occur.

However, you can prevent yourself from getting easily cold by wearing warmer clothes or turning up the heat in your home. You may also want to try yoga and breathing exercises.

Hyperventilation

If you suffer from anxiety, it would be easy for you to hyperventilate. This causes you to breathe more air faster than you should.

Once you do, your body will feel like it is not getting enough oxygen causing you to breathe in more air.

When that happens, your system will have a hard time circulating your blood to the rest of your body, making the rest of your body feel cold, especially in your arms and feet.

Other possible factors for the icy cold feeling in your chest

Other several factors cause you to feel an icy cold feeling in your chest, which includes the following:

  1. Rapid ingestion of extremely cold drinks – It causes you to feel your brain freeze, but it also induces sudden pain in the back and chest that often leaves a cold lingering feeling even after a while.
  2. The room temperature of your place – You may want to check the temperature of your bedroom or home if it’s warm enough, especially during the night or in the winter and fall seasons.
  3. Your sensitivity to normal cold – You may be one of those people who would feel extra cold even though the temperature isn’t that low; you could be cold intolerant. Consider wearing warmer clothes, maintaining your normal body temperature, and adding more vitamins and healthy fats to your diet.
  4. Cold weather – Now, this is something you can’t alter. You can buy a thicker comforter; consider wearing thick jackets or warmer clothes. Also, have a habit of drinking warm water or hot tea instead of cold beverages.
  5. Heart conditions – This could only happen when the icy cold feeling in your chest is associated with abnormal stinging pain and trouble breathing. Please go to the nearest hospital immediately.

FAQs

I have an icy cold feeling in my chest. Is this a COVID-19 symptom?

Patients infected by the COVID-19 virus develop mild to severe symptoms.

The most common symptoms include high fever, cough, pain in the throat, burning feeling in the chest, and trouble breathing.

Other symptoms include respiratory infections, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of sense of taste and smell, paleness, and discoloration of skin, nails, and lips.

If these symptoms develop along with the icy cold feeling in your chest, please stay at home and isolate yourself. Then, call on a doctor immediately.

What causes chest pain?

Chest pains could manifest complications within your vascular system, lungs, esophagus, and nerves in your chest area.

Whether there’s a blockage in your vascular vessels, poor circulation of your blood, inflammation in your heart muscles, or other coronary diseases.

Others could be signs of microbial infection in your respiratory system or problems in your gastrointestinal tract.

Some of the underlying conditions could not be as serious.

It could be due to your anxiety or panic attacks which could be treated by simply taking rest, meditation, and drinking lots of water.

However, chest pains are something you must not ignore. It could cause serious complications if not treated immediately. Please seek emergency help when such a symptom occurs.

Conclusion

Nothing is sure about what’s causing you to have an icy cold feeling in your chest until doctors make their diagnosis.

You will need to undergo several tests like an X-ray examination, pulmonary and blood tests, or even an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Regardless of whatever could be the real reason, the best thing you can do is monitor yourself, get enough sleep, increase your fluid intake and try to sweat regularly.

If the cold feeling lingers after a couple of days and severe symptoms occur, please schedule a check-up with your physician immediately.

Reana Jean Cuevas
Mabuhay! I'm Reana Jean Cuevas. A healthy body means living well with no worries-just happiness and more life adventures. Taking care of my body and well-being is an investment for my career and future. I was a volunteer at the Philippine Red Cross. I joined the training to become a first-aider and be able to provide other health and safety services in my community. I love discussing anything but mainly first-aid, home remedies, and women's health.
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