Anxiety and stress commonly cause cold sweats, but they can also be brought on by some medical conditions. This article explains the probable causes and treatments for the problem.
The term “cold sweats” refers to sudden sweating not caused by heat or exertion. They often are a part of your body’s stress reaction, part of your body’s innate fight or flight response. Cold sweats may also be a symptom of an injury or illness. If you are handling first aid for a person who has cold sweats, recognize them as another symptom of the overall problem.
How to Recognize Cold Sweats
These sweats may come on without warning, for various reasons. Normal sweating is expected after physical activity, but cold sweats are not normal. They may be worse at night, since you’ll tend to try to fight them. This may cause more anxiety, and you won’t be able to sleep if you are fearful. This creates more anxiety, which leads to more cold sweats. It’s a vicious circle.
Cold Sweat Symptoms
Cold sweats usually occur along with other types of symptoms. Those can vary, and are dependent on the causes and any medical conditions that affect you.
Common cold sweat symptoms include:
- Achiness or pain
- Anxiety or stress
- Pale skin
When should you Seek Medical Help?
Cold sweats may, at times, be symptomatic of serious conditions. Seek medical attention immediately if your sweats are accompanied by symptoms that indicate a serious problem. They include:
- Changes in your alertness level
- Loss of consciousness
- Changes in your behavior, like hallucinations, confusion, lethargy or delirium
- Tightness, pain or pressure in your upper back, arm, shoulder, jaw or chest
- Shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing or wheezing
- High fever of 101F or higher
- Bluish or gray discoloration of skin, lips or nails
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling of the tongue, face or mouth
- Tightness in your throat
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Severe pain
- Vomiting blood
- Bloody stool or bleeding from your rectum
Before you fear cold sweats more, understand that they are usually caused by anxiety. However, if you experience any of these symptoms above, seek out immediate medical attention.
Cold Sweat Causes
Cold sweats generally occur as the result of your body’s natural fight/flight response when you deal with stress. It is quite natural to have cold sweats when you are facing any of these situations:
- Fear, Stress or Anxiety
Anxiety and fear can cause stress for you, especially if you are worrying about your relationship, finances or job. Any level of stress from everyday anxiety to stark panic can trigger your body’s natural fight/flight response, which can cause cold sweats.
If you have intense pain from migraines or serious injuries like fractures or amputations, this may cause cold sweats.
- Low Blood Sugar
You may experience low blood sugar if you don’t eat frequently or enough, or if your overall nutrition is poor. Diabetic patients sometimes experience it, as well. Low blood sugar means a drop in the glucose level in your blood. Symptoms in addition to cold sweats include blurred vision, trembling or dizziness.
- Lack of Oxygen
If you have less than usual oxygen in your bloodstream, you may become short of breath. The brain senses this, and triggers your body’s stress response in seeking out more oxygen.
This cause of cold sweats is most often experienced by 40-year old or older women. It causes numerous symptoms, marking the end of the normal female menstrual cycle. In addition to cold sweats, menopause may cause insomnia and hot flashes.
- Low Blood Pressure
Normal human blood pressure should be about 120/80. If it drops to 90/60 or lower, that’s simply too low. It can be caused by dehydration, malnutrition or blood loss. Other symptoms include clammy skin and dizziness.
Chronic and recurring migraines may occur on either side of your head. Their causes include stress and poor diet. Symptoms in addition to cold sweats include nausea and dizziness.
Some medicines can cause cold sweats. They include some blood pressure medications and antibiotics. Some herbal supplements and OTC medications may also be the culprits.
- Heart Attack
This is the most severe cold sweat cause. Blockage in blood vessels reduces blood flow to your heart. Other symptoms include arm pain and chest pain.
Your body can go into shock when blood flow to vital organs and the brain is low, to a dangerous level. It is life-threatening, and often occurs after an acute illness or severe injury. If someone is in shock, they need medical attention immediately.
- Other Conditions
There are other medical conditions that may cause you to have cold sweats. They include immune disorders, viral infections, influenza and circulatory disorders. In addition to cold sweats, other symptoms include dizziness, chills and weakness.
Treating Cold Sweats
The causes for cold sweats mentioned above can be cured or at least treated. Some require medical attention, while some can make do with care at home. Cold sweats, unless part of a serious illness or injury, can be alleviated to a degree in various ways.
Healthy diet changes can make you less likely to suffer from cold sweats. Don’t eat foods high in sugar right before you go to bed. If you suffer from low blood sugar, keep your meals on schedule and don’t skip meals.
Managing your stress can help treat cold sweats if they were caused by anxiety or stress. Exercising, doing yoga, jogging or taking a nice warm bath may aid in your relaxation. Breathe slower, to reduce anxiety attacks or panic. If you have difficulty in coping with stress or anxiety, consult with your physician for help.
- Be Productive
When you experience cold sweats, try engaging in some activity that will occupy your mind. Do a crossword puzzle, for example, or read a book.
- Make Positive Changes in your Sleeping Environment
Control the bedroom temperature in your home with the thermostat. This can lessen your night-time cold sweats. If you have a cold sweat episode while you’re sleeping, you may need to change your bedding and replace wet sheets with dry. Wear clothing to sleep that is comfortable and loose-fitting.
You may make other changes in your environment for sleep by removing anything that causes light in your room, like your computer or a clock. Turn the TV off and if you need to, add blackout curtains to your window, to darken your room even more.
Don’t start taking new medicines without asking your healthcare provider. Anti-anxiety drugs can be helpful in managing cold sweats, but clear them with your physician first. Only a medical doctor is qualified to treat the more serious conditions that may cause you to have cold sweats.