Why Do I Get Cold Sweats 

Breaking into a “cold sweat” is a phrase that people often use to describe situations that make them feel particularly anxious, as the phenomenon of sweating so much you feel cold often occurs in worrying situations. However, you might find you’ve been experiencing cold sweats even in the absence of anxiety wondering why? A cold sweat can occur for a large variety of reasons, some of them underlying medical conditions. In this article, you can find out more about the causes of cold sweats which may help you get to the bottom of why you’ve been experiencing them.    


Firstly, we need to understand what sweating is and why it happens. Your body needs to keep your body temperature within a very narrow range. Typically, between 36 and 37°C as this is the most optimal body temperature for your body to function as normal. However, there are situations where your body temperature can rise above this threshold. For example, being outside on a very hot day, or when you are exercising, you will suddenly feel really hot. If your temperature were to continue to rise like this, it would have catastrophic effects so your body needs a way to lower your body temperature to normal. It achieves this by sweating. You have millions of sweat glands all over your skin and in response to a rise in body temperature, they are activated to produce sweat.1 This sweat will then dry on the surface of your skin and as it dries it takes heat away with it, lowering your body temperature. 

Causes of cold sweats

Cold sweats while describing a sensation of coldness while sweating is not really a specific symptom as you would expect your body temperature to drop with sweating therefore the sensation itself can just be normal isolated events. However, anything that may cause excessive sweating is likely to give you a sensation of cold sweating due to the volume of sweating. There are many other reasons besides being too warm that can cause sweating. So an underlying condition could be the cause of frequent cold sweats.

One potential reason is the condition of hyperhidrosis where the receptors on your sweat glands are being over-activated.1 This leads to a person who suffers from sweating excessively. This can be characterized as primary hyperhidrosis which typically runs in the family and shows symptoms early in life. Or secondary hyperhidrosis where the condition comes as a result of an underlying disease or medication.1 Primary Hyperhidrosis is typically more specific to certain body parts with excessive palms, underarms, and feet sweating the most common symptoms. Secondary hyperhidrosis is less specific in location. Due to the excessive volume those with hyperhidrosis may find that they experience cold sweats.

Hormone changes can cause secondary hyperhidrosis. For example, menopause results when a woman comes to the end of her fertility which triggers hormonal changes such as reduced estrogen. Women going through menopause typically experience the characteristic symptom of hot flashes which raises their body temperature and can be accompanied by sweating and chills.2 Diabetes is a condition where the body is low on the hormone insulin which is needed to regulate blood sugar levels and is often associated with secondary hyperhidrosis. It is thought that diabetics, their inability to lower their blood sugar damages their nerves leading to excessive activation of sweat glands.3 To treat the condition, those with diabetes are given synthetic insulin to lower blood sugar. However, in the event they take a dose of insulin that is too high they may have dangerously low blood sugar. This low blood sugar is called a hypoglycaemic episode, it’s very serious and cold excessive sweating is a common symptom.3

Cold Sweating is a frequent symptom of your body being under stress whether that is from emotional stress or biological. For example anxiety disorders are frequently associated with cold sweats. A patient may often experience what is known as rigors during a serious infection. Rigors describe the symptom of a person with a high fever who also experiences chills and shivering. This can be accompanied by sweating giving a cold sweating feeling. Those who have heart attacks have also been found to often experience cold sweating alongside chest pain with one study finding those with cold sweating symptoms were more likely to have a more severe heart attack.4 Severe diseases such as particular types of cancers are also associated with excessive sweating with night sweats and fever being known as characteristic symptoms of lymphoma


Those with primary hyperhidrosis may find that the frequent sweating can have a negative impact on mental health due to a constant sense of shame about the condition. As frequent cold sweats may be a symptom of many underlying conditions, failure to treat the underlying condition can have very serious outcomes.

Management and treatment for cold sweats

The suggested self-help treatment from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for treating hyperhidrosis may prove useful if you suffer from frequent cold sweats even if you might not have the condition. These include:5

  • Using antiperspirants
  • Avoiding tight clothing
  • Using underarm pads
  • Wearing moisture-wicking socks or absorbent soles

 If this doesn’t help and after seeing a doctor it is determined that you may have primary hyperhidrosis you may be started on a 20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate antiperspirant spray.

If the cause of your cold sweats is due to an underlying condition the priority will be to treat the condition which should help alleviate the symptoms

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if you experience:   

  • Sweating that you deem to be excessive that is localized to you hands, palms, and feet  
  • Have a family member who has been diagnosed with primary hyperhidrosis
  • You experience hot flashes    
  • You’ve noticed weight loss to go along with the sweating   
  • You frequently experience night sweats    
  • Have a fever    
  • You experience chest pain alongside the sweating 


In conclusion cold sweats can have a multitude of causes and for some, it may just be a normal result of the body cooling down as you sweat. However it can also be an indication of underlying medical conditions and so if you do believe your sweating is excessive or you notice other symptoms alongside the sweating, it’s best to seek medical advice.


  1. Brackenrich J, Fagg C. Hyperhidrosis.  StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing Available from; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459227/Copyright © 2022, StatPearls Publishing LLC.; 2022.
  2. Bansal R, Aggarwal N. Menopausal Hot Flashes: A Concise Review. Journal of mid-life health. 2019;10(1):6-13. Available from;https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31001050/
  3. Klarskov CK, von Rohden E, Thorsteinsson B, Tarnow L, Lommer Kristensen P. Gustatory sweating in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus: Prevalence and risk factors. Endocrinology, diabetes & metabolism. 2021;4(4):e00290. Available From;https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8502225/
  4. Ängerud KH, Sederholm Lawesson S, Isaksson RM, Thylén I, Swahn E. Differences in symptoms, first medical contact and pre-hospital delay times between patients with ST- and non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction. European heart journal Acute cardiovascular care. 2019;8(3):201-7.
  5. NICE. Hyperhidrosis:Scenario: Management 2018 [cited 2023 January 19]. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/hyperhidrosis/management/management/.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Jeandy Mibanzo-Ilamu

Master of Research Biology of Cancer - MRes University of Liverpool

Jeandy is a final year medical student which has allowed him to acquire strong clinical knowledge and familiarity with general health and wellbeing.His master's degree focused on the Biology of Cancer, a keen area of interest and allowed him to develop a lot of the skills he uses in writing his articles.

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