What is a Diaphoresis (cold sweat)?
You haven’t been working out, and the weather isn’t hot or humid, but despite that, you are sweating. What does this signify? Well, it is the symptom of cold sweat.
Most people experience cold sweat at some point in their lives, whether when they have a fever, when they are anxious, when they wake up from a nightmare soaked in sweat, or when they experience a clammy palms reaction.
In contrast to most types of sweating, cold sweats are not caused by heat or exerting the body in any way. They occur due to the body’s ‘fight or flight response’, which is intended to defend us in dangerous circumstances.
Our body goes into “overdrive” when we are frightened, scared or threatened because our breathing and pulse rate automatically increases. Our sweat glands then start to work, helping us to stay cool.
Even watching a scary movie can make a person feel chilled. But when the cold sweats are frequent, it may signify an underlying medical issue and consulting a doctor is advisable.
10 possible causes of cold sweats
People with fever usually feel warm. However, one can have chilly sweats when the fever subsides.
If a person only experiences fever and no other alarming symptoms like shortness of breath, the fever can be cured at home. If the individual starts to have cold sweats, covering themself with a blanket and drinking some water, juice or other fluids helps with rehydration.
Certain over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen also help reduce fever.
The body raises its temperature when it has any type of illness or virus, from the flu to chickenpox, to assist the body attack the antibodies entering it. And as a result, cold sweats occur.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition where the sweat glands produce excessive amounts of sweat. Sweating more than usual also describes hyperhidrosis. Even if it is not harmful, it can be embarrassing and interfere with activities. Most frequently, sweating occurs in the head, underarms, feet and palms of those with hyperhidrosis.
People with this syndrome frequently sweat excessively in hot temperatures and during exertion. But on occasion, even when the body temperature is normal, sweating can occur.
Although hyperhidrosis is not harmful, it is frequently uncomfortable and unpleasant. Special antiperspirants, medicines, botox and even surgery, can be used to address this issue. However, doctors will initially try a less complex form of treatment before turning to surgery.
Issues with hyperhidrosis include
- Slipperiness that makes it difficult to grasp objects
- White, soft, peeling skin
- Skin infections.
People going through menopause may experience cold sweats. Cold sweats may also be a symptom of hormonal changes, such as experiencing a hot flash during menopause or having the hormone levels adjust after giving birth. Hot flashes during menopause are common and are the most typical symptom. Occasionally, the hot flash will be followed by a cold sweat or chill. Menopause also has the following side effects.
- Mood changes
- Night sweats
- Dryness in the vagina
- Sleep troubles.
Stress & Anxiety
Even when it is not hot, anxiety frequently results in sweating. For example, an important presentation or test could cause someone to experience cold sweats.
Breathing gently and deeply will help relax the muscles in this situation. Speaking with a doctor is helpful if the anxiety is severe and prevents an individual from living a fulfilling life.
Cold sweats can also arise due to mood disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, despair and panic attacks.
Numerous over-the-counter vitamins, as well as many drugs, can cause cold sweats.
Taking drugs like cholinesterase inhibitors, opioids, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and medications used to treat dementia can cause cold sweats or excessive sweating in general.
The following drugs have been linked to cold sweats.
- Antidepressants, such as tricyclics and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
- Angiotensin II receptor blocker
- Oestrogen/androgen modulating agents – This includes gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists and aromatase inhibitors. These drugs affect oestrogen or androgen levels or hormone receptor binding, which can lead to hot flashes accompanied by sweating at any hour of the day.
- Hypoglycaemic drugs for Diabetes treatments can cause low blood sugar levels and profuse sweating.
When the thyroid gland is overactive and secretes too much thyroxine, it signifies hyperthyroidism. The body reacts to the condition by speeding up its metabolism and going into “fight or flight” mode, which can trigger symptoms like anxiety, trembling hands and cold sweats.
Additional indications include
- A rapid or unsteady heartbeat
- Trembling, weakness or anxiousness
- Sleep troubles
- Unexpected weight loss.
Low blood sugar
Low blood sugar patients should consume sugar, sometimes through juice or glucose. Since low blood sugar can be harmful, immediate intervention is necessary.
A person needs hospital care if their symptoms do not get better after taking sugar or if they are unconscious or losing consciousness.
Checking the blood sugar should be the first course of action for those with Diabetes related cold sweats. One should seek emergency medical attention immediately to raise the blood glucose levels if the level is dropping too low.
Sweating has had an indirect relationship with sleep apnea. But many patients can have night sweats without having a sleep issue.
For individuals having persistent night sweats, it may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Cold sweats can also be a symptom of several cancers, although this is a less common cause of sweating. Lymphoma (both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin) is most frequently related to sweating.
Carcinoid tumours, mesothelioma, bone cancer and liver cancer have all been linked to increased sweating.
Fever, cold sweats and chills are symptoms of infections. Depending on the type of illness, there may be other symptoms. Examples of infections include pneumonia, TB, peritonitis (an infection of the lining around the abdomen) and pyelonephritis (a kidney infection).
Many infections might make a person feel cold. The following infections might be the cause of the cold sweats.
- Night sweats,
- Pneumonia and
- Bacterial infections like endocarditis, osteomyelitis and mononucleosis are just a few acute and chronic conditions that can result in sweating.
Symptoms of cold sweats
A cold sweat frequently occurs together with other symptoms. Depending on the underlying illness, problem or condition, these can change.
The following are signs of cold sweat.
- Pains and aches
- Tension or worry
- Cold or fever
- Vomiting and nauseous
A cold sweat may occasionally coexist with other symptoms that could point to a life-threatening disease.
Seeking medical attention is essential if the symptoms are severe like
- Severe fever
- Extreme pain
- Heart palpitations
- Wheezing, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.
- Throat constriction or facial, tongue, or mouth swelling.
- Changes in consciousness or alertness – passing out or being unresponsive.
- Rapid changes in the mental state or behaviour – Disorientation, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations or delusions.
- Chest pain or a sensation of pressure or tightness in the shoulder, arm, jaw or upper back.
- Cyanosis is a grey or bluish discolouration of the skin, lips or nails.
- Severe rectal bleeding, passing bloody stools or vomiting blood.
How to treat cold sweats?
The course of treatment depends on the cause, as cold sweat is a symptom rather than a condition in and of itself.
Some underlying causes, including hyperthyroidism, requires drugs or procedures as treatment.
Treating low blood sugar is required for Diabetes patients. Hormone replacement therapy may be an option if menopause is the underlying cause. If not, alternative drugs and a change in lifestyle may help with symptom relief.
There are various therapy options available for those who have hyperhidrosis, including
- Antidepressants, which could help anxiety and reduce sweating.
- Iontophoresis is a method for stopping sweat glands by using an electric current.
- Botulinum toxin injections to treat underarm sweating.
- Medicines that obstruct the nerves supplying the sweat glands.
- Prescription-strength creams and antiperspirants to stop sweating.
Drinking adequate water is essential, especially while suffering from fever and sweats caused due to an infection. To compensate for chills and sweat, layer dresses and use lightweight clothes.
Treatments for primary focal hyperhidrosis include prescription-strength antiperspirants, Botox injections and several other procedures that target the afflicted sweat glands and nerves.
In terms of some other conditions that can produce cold sweats, the treatment is more focused on the underlying issue rather than the cold sweats themselves.
Antibiotics will be necessary for people who have bacterial infections. Chemotherapy, radiation or surgery are options for treating cancer. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine can help treat sleep apnea. Menopausal hot flashes can be controlled with medications.
Are cold sweats preventable?
Cold sweats can be prevented by exercising frequently and abstaining from habits like smoking or drinking alcohol.
When to contact a doctor?
Medical consultation is necessary for experiencing clammy skin and the following symptoms, along with cold sweats.
- Shortness of breath
- A change in one’s health or mental capacity
- Discomfort or pain in your back, stomach or chest
- Red, black or maroon stool (can signify blood in the stool)
- Persistent vomiting (particularly if it contains blood).
Cold sweats are among the signs of a heart attack, states American Heart Association (AHA). So, care is required for those suffering from pain in the chest or upper body, nausea or lightheadedness.
Seek medical attention on frequently experiencing cold sweats along with other symptoms, including discomfort, chest ache, trouble breathing or nausea. Cold sweats shouldn’t be a regular occurrence, but they can occur occasionally.
A cold sweat occurs without heat or exertion and can feel like cold or clammy skin. Sometimes, it can indicate a more significant problem.
It’s crucial to be aware of the signs of cold sweat and to get emergency medical attention if the condition arises due to a more severe issue, such as a heart attack.
What is the main cause of cold sweats?
The fight or flight response and the ensuing cold sweats are most frequently triggered by anxiety and stress. The following scenarios and settings may also cause cold sweats.
1. Anxiety disorders – Panic attacks, social anxiety
2. Generalised worry or sweats.
What happens when you break into a cold sweat?
While the body naturally cools itself by sweating, a cold sweat is typically caused by sudden stress or fear, which activates the body’s fight-or-flight stress response. While cold sweats by themselves usually don’t pose a health risk, they can be an indication of more severe health problems.
How do I stop cold sweats at night?
1. Use fans
2. Open windows
3. Wear breathable clothes
4. Sleep on lightweight bedding.
Calming down is the first step for preventing cold sweats at night. While waking up sweating, expose the neck and feet, sip some cold water, lay a cool washcloth on the head, or run some cold water over the wrists.
Cold sweats can be avoided by exercising regularly and avoiding habits such as excessive alcohol use and smoking. Deep breathing can assist the blood’s oxygen supply to be restored in some circumstances where it is low.
What does cold sweat feel like?
Regular sweats do not result from the body’s cooling response, unlike cold sweats. This means that people with a cold sweat may have cool, clammy skin and may also feel cold. The skin can occasionally look very pale.