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Cold and Clammy? 10 Causes of Cold Sweats and How to Treat Them

You might think sweating is just your body’s way of cooling down after an intense workout or during a hot day. And you’re right, but there’s a whole other side of sweating that’s a bit more chilling – literally. 

We’re talking about cold sweats, those clammy, icy beads that pop up on your skin when something’s not quite right. 

“Regular sweating is the body’s way of regulating our temperature and often occurs to help cool our core temperature,” said Colton Redding, DO, a family medicine physician with Banner Health. “But cold sweat, or diaphoresis, is a sign of significant stress on the body and often indicates an infection or illness.”

From everyday stress to more serious health issues, we break down 10 reasons you may sweat when you’re cold and offer tips and tricks for managing cold sweats. 

Common causes of cold sweats

Cold sweats can happen for many reasons. That cold, clammy feeling often indicates that your body is experiencing some form of stress or discomfort. The most common causes include:

  • Stress and anxiety: Anxiety can trigger cold sweats as part of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response, which is designed to protect us from dangerous situations. If you are overly anxious, your body releases sweat – even if you feel cold. 
  • Illness or infection: Cold sweats can also be a sign that your body is fighting off an illness or infection. Conditions like a cold, the flu, pneumonia and tuberculosis can cause fever and sweating, while infections like HIV and tuberculosis can also lead to night sweats.
  • Hormonal changes: Changes in hormone levels, especially in women, can trigger cold sweats. This may occur during perimenopause, menopause, pregnancy or due to a thyroid disorder.
  • Low blood sugar: If your blood sugar levels drop too low, your body can respond by producing hypoglycemia. In addition to shakiness and dizziness, hypoglycemia can cause cold sweats. 
  • Blood pressure changes: Rapid drops in blood pressure, such as during orthostatic hypotension (when blood pressure drops upon standing), can lead to cold sweats.
  • Shock: In situations of extreme stress or trauma, the body may go into shock, which may cause symptoms of cold sweats, rapid heartbeat and pale skin.
  • Medications: Some medications, like antidepressants, opioids and some diabetes medications, can cause sweating as a side effect. If you recently started a new medication and notice increased sweating, it’s worth discussing with your health care provider. 
  • Cardiovascular disease: Heart disease, including heart attacks, can cause cold sweats. During a heart attack, the body tries to cope with the stress on the heart and reduced oxygen supply to tissues. Other symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath and lightheadedness.
  • Dehydration: When your body loses more fluids than it takes in, it can lead to dehydration. You may experience fever and chills. 
  • Older adults: As people age, their bodies may become less efficient at regulating temperature. This may make them more prone to experiencing cold sweats, especially in response to illness, medications or hormonal changes. Seniors may also have underlying health conditions like heart disease, diabetes or neurological disorders that increase their risk for cold sweats.

When to seek medical attention

In most cases, cold sweats are harmless and will go away once the cause or trigger has passed. However, there are times when they may indicate a more serious problem. 

“Should you have associated chest pain, difficulty breathing or the feeling of passing out, have someone call 911 to be seen at the emergency department for prompt evaluation and treatment,” Dr. Redding said. “These could be signs of a heart attack, stroke or other serious condition.”

You should schedule an appointment to see your health care provider if you experience:

  • Chronic or frequent cold sweats without an obvious cause.
  • Cold sweats that interfere with daily activities or quality of life.
  • New or explained symptoms along with cold sweats, like sudden weight loss, changes in your bowel movements or chronic fever. 

Ways to prevent cold sweats

While not all causes for cold sweats can be prevented, there are some ways to help keep clammy chills away:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink fluids throughout the day, especially water, to prevent dehydration, which can trigger cold sweats.
  • Dress for hot weather: Wear lightweight, breathable clothing in hot weather to help your body stay cool and reduce the risk of sweating a lot. 
  • Avoid triggers: If possible, identify and avoid triggers that can cause cold sweats, such as spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol and stressful situations.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep to support overall health and reduce the chances of cold sweats.
  • Manage stress: Practice stress-reducing activities like deep breathing, meditation or yoga to prevent stress-induced cold sweats.
  • Monitor your meds: Be aware of medications you’re taking that may list cold sweats as a side effect. If you experience cold sweats while taking medication, talk to your health care provider to discuss possible alternatives or adjustments.
  • Treat underlying conditions: If you have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease that may contribute to cold sweats, work with your provider to manage these conditions effectively. 


Cold sweats might seem like a strange quirk of the body but they can be helpful signs of what’s happening inside your body. Whether they’re caused by stress or something more serious, paying attention to these signals can help you take better care of yourself. 

So the next time you feel those unexpected chills down your spine, listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It might signal that it’s time for a closer look. Reach out to your health care provider or an expert at Banner Health for help.

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