In an attempt to study effects of cold on blood pressure and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, 34 healthy young subjects with or without a family history of essential hypertension were exposed to moderate cold (4 degrees C for 1 h) or severe cold (immersion of the hands to 0 degrees C for 10 min). Moderate cold elevated blood pressure, aldosterone, cortisol and noradrenaline when the subjects wore summer clothing but not when the subjects wore winter clothing. Regardless of the clothing worn, skin blood flow and plasma renin activity decreased significantly in response to moderate cold but angiotensin II decreased insignificantly. Severe cold elevated blood pressure, cortisol, aldosterone and noradrenaline. Administration of dexamethasone significantly depressed an increase of aldosterone and cortisol in response to cold but failed to effect an elevation of blood pressure and noradrenaline. Plasma renin activity and angiotensin II concentration were not affected at all during and after cold exposure. It is suggested that, among the various hormones studied, noradrenaline is the only hormone responsible for an elevation of blood pressure in response to cold.