Causes of cold sweat and what to do

Cold sweat is a reaction that can be associated with multiple causes. In the following lines we expose its main triggers.

Last update: December 16, 2021

Sweating is a natural mechanism for the body to regulate its body temperature. Its evaporation allows to reduce the temperature, at the end that some toxic substances (ammonia, urea and others) are also eliminated. This is why you sweat when it’s hot or when you do strenuous activities. However, there is the phenomenon known as cold sweat.

This corresponds to the activation of the perspiration mechanism for causes that do not respond to the previous ones (heat or effort). Since the body temperature is normal, you perceive the sweat as if it were cold. To some extent the causes of this phenomenon are not known, although of course several candidates have been identified as possible culprits.

Main causes of cold sweat

The human body has two types of sweat glands: eccrine, which are found throughout the body; and apocrine, which are located in the armpits and groin. Cold sweat can develop through either of these two, although the latter are mainly related to hormonal changes and mood disturbances.

Researchers agree that there is not always a causal relationship between cold sweats and an underlying condition. Despite this, on many occasions this type of experience corresponds to a condition that can be diagnosed. Here are the main causes of cold sweat.

1. Infectious processes

The fever that characterizes many infectious diseases is often associated with a cold sweat.

Any infectious process your body is going through can trigger cold sweats. Normally, a person sweats as an automatic response to fever. This is a reaction of the body to activate the immune system and disrupt the growth of temperature-sensitive microorganisms.

Therefore, if you experience cold sweats in the company of a fever, it is very likely that you are going through an infectious process. The abuse of certain drugs (such as methamphetamine) can also trigger episodes of fever, which would result in this type of sweating.

2. Anxiety disorders

With the label of anxiety disorders A series of disorders that share certain characteristics in common are described. Panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder are some of them. One symptom that many patients develop in all of these disorders is excessive sweating, within the framework of what is known as fight or flight response.

The latter is a reaction that originates from a threat to the integrity of the individual (according to his subjective criteria). In general, this type of sweating occurs to prevent overheating due to internal metabolic changes. Increased heart rate, blood flow, muscle tension, and so on can increase temperature.

3. Hypoxia

The hypoxia is the medical term used to refer to oxygen deficiency. For example, the one that develops due to altitude, inhaling smoke, suffocation or some diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others). Sweating caused by hypoxia is also a consequence of the fight or flight response.

There are different degrees of tolerance to hypoxia. Physical activity, diet, and some psychological factors (such as neurosis, for example) can make a person more sensitive to oxygen restrictions. You can develop hypoxia as a result of drug overdose, cardiac arrest, drowning, and complications in the provision of general anesthesia.

4. Hormonal disorders

Hormonal imbalances cause a series of metabolic changes throughout the body. Weight gain, increased or decreased heart rate, anxiety, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to cold are the most common. Cold sweat is also added to these, a natural response to control these internal changes in the body.

Menopause, taking some medications, eating disorders, thyroid disorders, diabetes, puberty, and more are just a few to highlight. In these cases, sweating usually has a greater impact, since in many patients sensitivity to changes in temperature can cause it to trigger dizziness, nausea and weakness.

5. Hypoglycemia

Cold sweat is one of the many symptoms of hypoglycemia, a situation especially common in diabetic patients.

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. Hormonal deficiencies, insulin overproduction, liver or kidney disease, a poor diet, excess alcohol and the intake of some medications, among many other things, can promote hypoglycemic symptoms.

Aside from sweating, you will also experience irregular heartbeat, fatigue, pale skin, irritability, tingling, and anxiety. Poorly controlled diabetes can also cause you to experience hypoglycemia. Apart from these explanations for cold sweat, we highlight other possible causes:

  • Heart attacks.
  • Shock.
  • Syncope.
  • Trauma or injury.
  • Cerebrovascular attacks
  • Hypotension
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Hyperhidrosis

We can list hundreds of explanations that have cold sweating as one of their symptoms, but these are the most common. There will always be an underlying condition that triggers the reaction, whether or not it can be diagnosed.

What to do if I am in a cold sweat?

In the order of the previous paragraph, cold sweats are treated by attacking the condition that is generating them. Therefore, a diagnosis that rules out the conditions that have been listed is necessary to proceed to control them specifically. Of course, there are a couple of things you can do from home.

The main thing is to take your body temperature with the help of a thermometer. This way you can rule out an infectious process that is generating a fever. If so, you can take over-the-counter medications to control it and see your doctor to identify the cause.

If it is an isolated episode, you can simply use several pieces of clothing to cope with the feeling. On the contrary, if you have experienced these boxes repeatedly do not hesitate to consult a specialist. This will rule out any type of metabolic, hormonal, endocrine disorder and others that may be the cause of cold sweat.

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