Causes and treatment of cold sweats.

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"Cold sweat" refers to sudden sweating that is not associated with heat or exercise. The medical term for cold sweats is sweating . This is due to the body's response to stress called the fight or flight response.

Recognizing cold sweats is very important in first aid . Among other common causes, this could be a sign of a serious injury or illness.

Get Medical Information / Cindy Chang

Symptoms

What distinguishes cold sweat from normal sweating is what the patient does when they start to sweat. You can expect to sweat after a few jumps or push-ups, but cold sweats appear suddenly and at any temperature.

Sometimes sweating occurs at night when the patient tries to sleep. This is often referred to as "night sweats", but there really is no difference between night sweats and cold sweats. It involves sweating and may indicate a more serious problem .

Watch out

There is no specific treatment for cold sweat. In order for them to disappear, we must treat the root cause. For example, if shortness of breath causes sweating, helping the patient breathe easier and get more oxygen should help dry the skin.

In other words, sweating is not the problem; it is a sign or symptom of a problem. Recognizing a cold sweat when it occurs can help identify the problem before it becomes too serious.

Common causes

Anything that triggers a fight or flight response in the body can lead to cold sweats. What to do to get rid of a cold sweat depends on the cause.

Shock

Shock is dangerously low blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. The lack of blood flow delivers less oxygen and nutrients to the brain, causing stress. Shock is a life-threatening condition and identification of cold sweats is an important clue to identifying shock.

Other things to watch out for if a rescuer suspects shock are sudden heart palpitations, weak pulse, rapid breathing (more than 20 breaths per minute), pale skin, and feeling weak or dizzy when sitting or standing .

Shock doesn't happen either. Cold sweat that follows a mechanism of injury, such as a car accident or fall, is worrisome enough to call 911. In the meantime, allow the patient to lie on their back and raise their feet 8 to 12 inches.

Infection

Any infection that causes fever can cause cold sweats. Cold sweats often appear when the temperature "drops" or begins to drop. Truly severe cases of infection, called sepsis , can lead to shock and therefore cold sweats .

If the cold sweat occurs without a previous fever or is accompanied by the shock symptoms listed above, call an ambulance.

Fainting

Another drop in blood pressure called fainting, which often causes fainting, can lead to sweating. Many people begin to sweat due to sudden or severe nausea or dizziness . This is very similar to shock, and lying on your back with your feet raised also helps. Call an ambulance if you pass out.

Injury pain

Severe pain from serious injuries like fractures or amputations can lead to cold sweats. If a patient with a broken ankle sweats, it is very likely that they are in excruciating pain and can use something to relieve the pain.

If the patient is already taking something for pain, call the doctor to explain the situation and discuss alternatives or dose changes.

Heart attacks

A heart attack can lead to cold sweats. Call an ambulance if cold sweat is accompanied by chest pain or pressure, neck or arm pressure. Ask the patient to take a chewable aspirin while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Difficulty breathing

Severe shortness of breath can cause a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. When the patient's brain begins to crave oxygen, it triggers a stress response that causes, among other things, cold sweats .

Look for other signs of shortness of breath in a patient with a cold sweat, such as fatigue with too little exercise or pursed-lip breathing. If the patient has oxygen, make sure it's on and call an ambulance.

Low blood glucose

Too low blood sugar ( hypoglycemia ) is a common complication in people with diabetes. The brain considers a lack of sugar to be as serious a problem as a lack of oxygen. The reaction is the same, including cold sweats .

If the patient with diabetes is confused, call an ambulance and give glucose, if available. If the patient is able to drink, try fruit juice if glucose is not available.

Fear and anxiety

Finally, fear and anxiety are definite causes of stress for anyone. Anything from severe anxiety to everyday restlessness can trigger a fight or flight response and all its associated symptoms, including cold sweats.

Get the word of drug information

Sometimes a cold sweat indicates a serious problem. There are other causes of cold sweats that are not necessarily urgent, such as hormonal changes that occur during menopause or chronic conditions such as cancer.

It is important to discuss the common signs and symptoms of chronic conditions with your healthcare professional. Most importantly, if you are concerned about a cold sweat, especially the first time, see your doctor.

Frequently asked questions

  • So-called "night sweats" can be caused by the same conditions that cause sudden sweating during the day. However, according to some studies, changes in your exercise routine and your emotional state, including the onset of depression , can increase the likelihood of sweating while you sleep. If the problem persists, talk to your doctor. You may also want to review your medications to make sure sweating is not a side effect .

  • Withdrawal symptoms occur when you suddenly stop using alcohol or drugs after becoming addicted. Sweating is a common withdrawal symptom , especially with opiate and alcohol withdrawal. Although sweating is not a serious symptom, people with withdrawal symptoms should be closely monitored to avoid life-threatening complications that can occur in severe cases such as delirium tremens (DT).

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