Is it common for a stroke survivor to be less tolerant of heat?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I am a 16 month stroke survivor. Since my stroke, my tolerence for changes in weather has been affected. I get cold faster and cannot tolerate the heat. I'm fair skinned and have never gotten along with the heat, but since my stroke it seems as if my tolerance is no more. Is this common and why does it happen?

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Having difficulty with temperature change likely stems from your stroke. Your brain regulates your body's temperature much the way a thermostat would regulate the temperature in your house. When working properly, your body naturally adjusts to temperature changes by altering blood flow (making your face and extremities look flushed in a warm room), muscle activity (think of shivering), metabolism, and sweat production. When you suffer a stroke, your "thermostat," principally located in regions known as the thalamus and hypothalamus, as well as the connections coming from the "thermostat" can be damaged, and your body's temperature will not adapt smoothly to changes in the environment.

I would recommend that you try to help your "thermostat" by wearing clothing that can be easily adjusted (such as wearing a light jacket which can be quickly removed when you become too hot), and try your best to avoid being in conditions of extreme temperature. Finally, it's worth getting checked by your physician to be sure you don't have another medical condition such as a hormonal imbalance that could also lead to temperature alterations.