Cold Sweats and the Science to Stopping Them
Every man is plagued by something that really cuts into his natural sexy swagger. It can be different for each of us, but there are a few issues that are so common, we all have to deal with them. Cold sweats are one of those universal issues. You may not suffer from them every day, but literally everyone breaks out into a cold sweat at some point. What’s really going on here? Is there a way to predict or control cold sweats? The answers to those questions, and a whole lot more, can be found below.
What Are Cold Sweats?
Let’s start this conversation by distinguishing cold sweats from other perspiratory issues. You’re a gross, sweaty man sometimes; it can’t be denied. So, to look at cold sweats, we need to understand what they aren’t. Cold sweats are not the result of being surprisingly hot in cold weather. It’s not what happens when you go running in the snow and break a sweat. That’s normal sweating in what happens to be a cold environment.
Cold sweats aren’t night sweats either. Well, this actually depends on definitions, so we can clarify a little bit. You can get cold sweats when you sleep, but waking up in sweat-soaked sheets isn’t necessarily the same thing as having cold sweats. There are important distinctions, and we’re going to get into all of them. The first thing you need to understand is that “cold sweats” refers to a specific medical condition.
You know we’re being serious because we used the Latin, medical term for the condition. Diaphoresis is the word doctors use to describe any perspiration that is not intended to cool your body. In other words, these are cold sweats.
Primarily, you sweat to regulate your body temp. If it’s hot around, or if you do some physical exertion, your internal body temperature rises. In response, you sweat, and it cools you back down. Cold sweats are completely different. They occur when your body temperature is fine. So, if you aren’t sweating to cool off, then there’s only one other reason to sweat: stress.
That said, stress is a pretty big term. It can cover a lot of things, and that’s why cold sweats can be tied to a huge range of stressors. We’ll get into those details in a minute. What you need to learn first is that stress can be serious. If you can identify the sweat-inducing stress, then you can deal with the source. If you can’t find a root cause, consider medical intervention. Sometimes, cold sweats are letting you know that something serious is happening.
Distinguishing Cold Sweats
You know that stress causes cold sweats, but how can you be sure that’s what is really happening? There are two indicators that help you know that a cold sweat really is a stress response.
The first is the easiest. If you’re sweating when you feel like you shouldn’t be, it’s probably a cold sweat. If someone around you doesn’t think you feel warm to the touch, but you’re dropping buckets of sweat, then there’s a source of stress. It could be physical, mental or both, but it’s there.
The other tip to help you find cold sweats is to look at the location of the perspiration. When you’re hot, you’ll probably sweat all over — or at least on the parts of your body that trap the most heat. Cold sweats are different; they tend to hit specific locations. A common one is the palms. As Eminem so eloquently immortalized in song, sweaty palms happen when you feel stressed. It could be simple nervous, like a teenager on a first date. It could be the unparalleled stress of going into combat. It can be anything in between. The easy lesson here is that sweaty palms usually have more to do with stress than warmth.
The other two common cold sweat locations are trickier. They are your armpits and the soles of your feet. Knowing when sweat in these spots is stress versus heat can be tougher, but as an adult, you can probably figure it out.
The Causes of Cold Sweats
We’ve narrowed the issue down to stress. That’s like saying you feel bad because you’re sick. It’s not very specific, and we need to take a closer look if we’re going to reach a point of resolving cold sweats.
Anxiety itself comes in a wide range of severity. You could be feeling anxious before a business meeting, or you might be nervous about going home for the holidays. The anxiety could be a chronic issue. It doesn’t really matter why you have anxiety (as far as the sweating is concerned). If it’s there, the propensity for cold sweats will be there too. If you understand your anxiety, you can deal with it accordingly. If cold sweats help you recognize some deep-seated, unresolved anxiety, you might want to talk to a doctor about it. Sweating uncontrollably might be the first step to making some big, positive changes in your life.
We just made fun of broad, nondescript talk of illness, and here we are already. Despite that, getting sick puts your body under physical stress. This is true of any illness. If you catch a stomach bug, you’ll be at risk of cold sweats. If you have a fever, you’ll probably deal with cold sweats. If your body is hitting the early stages of unidentified cancer, it could come with cold sweats. We’re not saying all of this to scare you. The sweating itself doesn’t tell you how sick you are. We just want you to know how it works. If you know you’re sick, don’t be surprised by the accompanying skin glow. If you don’t feel sick, then pay attention to the random sweating. Sometimes, it’s the early warning sign that gets people to see a doctor before things spiral.
Once again, there’s a wide range of possibilities. Getting impaled through the shoulder while heroically saving children from peril can definitely give you cold sweats. Unfortunately, so can a bad splinter. If the problem is enough for your body to feel stress, it can come with sweat. This is another case where the sweat isn’t indicating severity. It just lets you know that things are not normal.
There is a point we want to hammer. If you’re in a first aid situation, you do need to pay attention to cold sweats. Sometimes, people appear ok on the surface when they aren’t, and sweating can be the sign that tips you off to the problem. Internal injuries and shock can both be very serious, and they can be difficult to detect. Let cold sweats be your secret tell.
Ok. We already said that night sweats and cold sweats aren’t always the same thing. Let’s dig a little deeper. Night sweats are their own broad, nondescript issue. Basically, sweating while you’re asleep is called night sweats, and it comes with its own wide range of causes.
In many cases, night sweats happen because you bundle up nice and cozy before falling asleep. Your burrito situation traps too much body heat. Your body temperature gets too high, and you sweat profusely. Because you’re under a mound of blankets, the sweating doesn’t really help. So, your body, trying to get you to wake up and cool off, subjects you to your worst nightmares. Eventually, you jolt awake with a racing heart and in a pool of your own sweat. This is not a cold sweat. This is you being too hot. If you pull the blankets off, you’ll cool down very quickly, and you’ll probably have sweet dreams afterwards.
On the other hand, you can have nightmares without being really hot. There are a lot of other issues that can lead to bad dreams. Whether the dreams induce the stress or are a symptom of it is hard to say, but the stress is there. That means cold sweats are possible. If you wake up covered in sweat, but you’re not hot at all, that’s a cold sweat — and a night sweat. If this happens a lot, it’s worth discussing with your doctor. You want to know what is generating the stress causing your nightly cold sweats.
Hormonal imbalances can cause cold sweats too. For a while, that was just another fun part of going through puberty. Sometimes, you weren’t nervous or anxious at all, and you still had unexplained sweating. That’s just the life.
As an adult, things should be a little more consistent and predictable. If you’re getting random cold sweats without a clear cause, hormones are one of the first things to check. For women, this is really common during menopause.
For both sexes, it’s also a typical symptom of thyroid issues. In fact, unexplained sweating will almost always lead to a doctor testing your thyroid and hormones.
There’s another way hormones can get disrupted. If you take steroids or hormonal supplements, it can lead you down the path to cold sweats.
This is where cold sweats can feel a bit scarier. Both hypertension and hypotension can lead to sweating. It’s more commonly associated with low blood pressure. If your cold sweats com alongside dizziness, blurry vision, passing out, nausea or unexplained exhaustion, low blood pressure could be the true cause. This should go without saying, but blood pressure issues need to be monitored by a doctor. They can go from annoying to dangerous very quickly.
On the other side of the coin, high blood pressure can also lead to cold sweats. In these cases, it’s common to have persistent headaches (and they can get really bad). You might also suffer from dizziness and blurry vision.
In either case, we want to encourage you to take blood pressure issues seriously. Sometimes, they can be easily resolved, but that only happens when you’re proactive.
Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia is another issue that leads to cold sweats. Keep in mind that you can have low blood sugar without being diabetic. It just means you haven’t eaten enough food for your current level of activity. Low blood sugar is interesting, in that it presents a lot of the same symptoms as low blood pressure. If you have that list of symptoms but haven’t eaten in quite some time, try a sugary drink or snack (no fake sugar on this one, the point is to get some fast, easy calories). If that’s the problem, you can bounce back pretty easily.
Now, you are diabetic, then you should already know to get medical help when dealing with low blood sugar issues. Diabetes complicates this problem substantially.
One of the leading reasons people Google cold sweats is because it’s somewhat common knowledge that they can signal a heart attack. We’re not trying to scare you, but this is actually true. Heart attacks obviously cause physical stress, and that can lead to cold sweats. Understanding how the cold sweats work with heart attacks can help.
A heart attack happens when a blood clot disrupts the flow of blood to heart tissue. This is clearly bad, but the thing to know is that these clots usually don’t arrive instantaneously. They slowly get pushed deeper and deeper until eventually they’re blocking enough blood flow to cause what we all think of as the chest-clutching moment of a heart attack.
Cold sweats can start long before the clot is in the ultimate danger zone. As that clot encroaches on your heart tissue, it will gradually restrict more and more blood flow. The stress comes before the heart attack hits its peak. This is why keeping an eye out for cold sweats can help people get treatment before the heart attack is at its worst. A lot of lives have been saved by this knowledge. It’s why you need to understand all of this information on cold sweats.
At the risk of oversimplifying, a stroke is basically the same thing as a heart attack but in the brain. Cold sweats can be an early warning sign for stroke, just like heart attacks. In fact, any cardiovascular or clotting issue can come with cold sweats.
There is one point we need to stop and discuss. The phrase is that these things cancause cold sweats. Everyone is different. Not everyone will have cold sweats before suffering from stroke or heart attack. In fact, some people just don’t have cold sweats. A lack of sweat doesn’t mean that a heart attack or stroke is impossible.
The last cause on today’s list is hypoxia. This is the medical term for any time you aren’t getting enough oxygen. Heart attacks and strokes can cause hypoxia. Pulmonary embolism can as well. In fact, anything that restricts breathing or the flow of blood can cause hypoxia — even allergies.
You can also get hypoxia from being in a low-oxygen environment. Maybe you’re enjoying a nice ski on the slopes. Maybe you like mountain climbing. Whatever the case, if you don’t get enough oxygen in the blood, you can get hypoxia, and it often comes with cold sweats. Other common symptoms of hypoxia are drowsiness and loopiness. You’re learning all of this because hypoxia is serious. Your blood doesn’t have enough oxygen. That problem should speak for itself.
Treating Cold Sweats
That was pretty exhaustive. You should have a good idea as to why you’re randomly sweating. Now, we can talk about getting rid of the sweat.
Going for the Roots
It’s pretty obvious. The first place to attack cold sweats is to go after the stress itself. If you know why you’re under stress, removing that problem will ultimately stop the sweating too. That’s why we’ve mentioned seeing a doctor so many times. If you have medically-caused cold sweats, you have to resolve the medical problem to get rid of the sweats. It’s that easy.
Dealing With Unpleasant Sweat
Still, there are going to be times where medical treatment isn’t really in order. If you’re getting cold sweats because being around your crush makes you nervous, there isn’t a surgery for that. Instead, you want to deal specifically with the sweating itself. This is where antiperspirants and deodorants come into play.
Let’s start with antiperspirants. These are literally designed to reduce how much you sweat. Most of them will use aluminum as an active ingredient. It’s a proven ingredient. It works well, and it’s harmless. The drawback is that it can stain clothing. So, depending on where your cold sweats manifest, you may want to use an undershirt or designated socks to jump on the stain grenades.
The other half of this is that aluminum won’t stop all sweating. What’s worse is that cold sweat is stress sweat. That means it smells worse than your normal workout sweat. When you’re stressed, your body produces a more potent chemical cocktail that seeps through the pores. Human beings are just gross sometimes.
This is why you want a good deodorant. Now, unless you search pretty hard, every antiperspirant you find is going to be scented. Just make sure you find a good scent for the issue. The best deodorant for your palms might not be the best deodorant for your feet.
If you keep all of it in mind, you can get your cold sweats under control. You can also use them as a health indicator, and you might save someone’s life someday — all because you took a few minutes to learn about sweat.