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What are Cold Sweats

Sunday, September 10th 2017. | Cold Sweats

Cold sweats are different from normal perspiration which is brought on by exertion or exposure to warm temperatures. It is sweating that occurs, often profusely, without the presence of heat. The perspiration is often visible and the skin is cold and clammy to the touch. Cold sweats are abnormal and must be investigated by a doctor.


Perspiration is a normal reaction of the to body to cool itself down.

Cold sweats however, are an abnormal activation of the sympathetic nervous system which cause the body to pour out sweat even without the presence of heat.

Causes of cold sweats

Severe pain from any cause such as a fracture or renal colic can cause a person to break out in a cold sweat. Another common cause is stress, anxiety, extreme fear or psychological stress.Stress

Low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia can trigger cold sweats, along with other symptoms such as light headedness, blurred vision and tremors. This can happen because of overdosage of anti-diabetic drugs or insulin in diabetic patients. There can be other causes too. The condition is quickly rectified by giving the patient glucose orally or through an IV drip.


Similarly, low blood pressure or hypotension, below 90/60 can cause cold sweats along with symptoms such as dizziness.Low Blood Sugar

A lack of oxygen in the blood or hypoxia could cause shortness of breath and trigger off a stress response causing cold sweats.

Various types of shocks can trigger cold sweats. These could be anaphylactic shock or a severe reaction to a drug or food; cardiogenic shock from a heart attack or heart failure (a heart attack can be accompanied by pain in the chest or left arm and uneasiness); hypovolemic shock because of loss of blood as in accidents; septic shock as in serious infections or blood poisoning; neurogenic shock as in a stroke. Cold sweats are the main indicators in these types of shock.Cardiogenic Shock

Cold sweats can also occur because of other conditions such as migraines, motion sickness during travelling, a vaso-vagal response as in when someone is choking one’s throat, psychological stress, infections like tuberculosis and HIV and in hormonal conditions such as menopause.


Sometimes, there can be no discernible cause of the cold sweats. The sweating may occur in one particular area of the body, like the feet or all over the body. The sweating could be profuse and occur mainly at night causing the bedsheets to be soaked through. This is supposed to be because of an overactive sympathetic system, a condition called hyperhidrosis. It is not a serious condition but can cause great discomfort to the patient.Sweating

The treatment of cold sweats depends upon the cause. Some cold sweats which indicate a serious condition such as shock need to be treated in a hospital on an emergency basis. If cold sweats are accompanied by pain in the chest, shortness of breath, undue pallor of the skin, skin or lips turning blue, palpitations, fits, uncontrolled bleeding or vomiting then immediate hospitalisation is mandatory for proper check up and treatment.

Less serious conditions such as migraines, infections, fevers, and hormonal conditions still need to be treated by a doctor.

If cold sweats are due to stress and anxiety these need to be managed by adopting stress reduction measures such as relaxation techniques, yoga and meditation.

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