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Feeling a Chill? Here’s Why You Have Cold Sweats 

You sweat during exercise or when you're exposed to hot weather. However, cold sweats are a symptom of an underlying physical or psychological cause.

Woman holding a white towel with her right hand as she sits at a table

Regular sweating cools the body by releasing salt-containing liquids from the sweat glands. This bodily function happens during exercise or exposure to hot weather. However, cold sweats don’t stem from a rise in temperature or physical exertion. It happens more in the palms and underarms, but not on the face or back. 

Continue reading to learn what causes the condition and if there’s a cure for cold sweats.

Woman biting her nails and looking away from another woman during an interview
Anxiety and fear are notable triggers of cold sweats.

What are the Reasons Behind Cold Sweats? 

Cold sweats are a fight-or-flight response to stress. It often involves episodes of sudden and overwhelming tension. These can be physical or psychological and may include:  

  • Anxiety 
  • Fear 
  • Gout 
  • Lymphoma 
  • Vomiting 
  • Infections 
  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Hormonal changes during menopause  
  • A heart attack 
  • A life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) 
  • An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) 
  • Alcohol withdrawal or excessive use of the substance 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cold sweats relate directly to imbalances in the Heart and Lung organ systems. Excessive internal Heat also induces abnormal sweating. It can occur from eating spicy food, Yin (passive energy) Deficiency, or a weak body constitution.

Yin is created when yang (active) energy evaporates body fluids. A disruption of the yinyang balance will prevent wei qi – superficial energy that protects the body against harmful pathogenic factors – and skin pores from functioning properly. Consequently, it can lead to unexpected episodes of cold sweats,” explains Eu Yan Sang physician Peh Wei Jie. 

How do You Correct Cold Sweats? 

A clinical physician will ask questions to learn why you have cold sweats. Examples of these are: 

  • “Are you currently in pain?” 
  • “Are you anxious or stressed?” 
  • “Have you recently been bitten by an insect?” 
  • “Have you recently consumed unfamiliar foods or beverages?” 
  • “How long have you been breaking out in cold sweats?” 
  • “Are you recovering or have recently recovered from a fever or other infection-related symptoms?” 

A TCM practitioner will carefully examine multiple factors, such as: 

  • The location of the sweat 
  • Time of the day that it happens 
  • The nature of sweating (cold or warm) 
  • The smell of sweat 

They’ll also classify people according to body types before proposing herbal medications that correct cold sweats.

A dessert prepared using white fungus and dates in a ceramic bowl placed on a wooden table 
White fungus is a cooling food that increases the body’s yin levels.

Make a few changes to your lifestyle  

Limit your intake of hot and spicy foods like ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and mutton. Refrain from consuming too many caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Rather, eat cooling foods to remove Heat, and nourishing foods to boost yin levels in the body. These include Chinese cabbage, sea cucumber, white fungus, pears, and lotus seeds.

If you have frequent cold sweats at night, try striking a balance between work and rest. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are good stress-relievers. Keeping the bedroom cool and ventilated can help maintain sleep hygiene. Absorbent footwear can be worn to keep the feet dry.  

Use herbal formulas to achieve balance 

Palpitations, shortness of breath, cold sweats at night, a pale tongue, and weak pulse are signs of Heart Blood Deficiency. Gui Pi Tang (归脾汤) can be used to nourish blood, invigorate the Heart, and stop sweating. It combines astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), magnolia berries (wu wei zi, 五味子) and jujube seeds (suan zao ren, 酸枣仁).  

Constipation, recurring night sweats, warm palms and soles, a red tongue, and rapid pulse indicate Yin Deficiency with internal Heat. Dang Gui Liu Huang Tang (当归六黄汤) or Yu Ping Feng San (玉屏风散) are two formulas that may be combined with grounded oyster shells (mu li, 牡蛎), Bupleurum root (yin chai hu, 银柴胡) or smoked plums (wu mei, 乌梅). These can enrich yin and decrease sweating by getting rid of Heat.

Stimulate acupoints to minimise the frequency of cold sweats 

Regulating the yin and yang balance of your body is necessary to reduce the number of cold sweat episodes. Acupuncture treatment can be used to achieve this goal by nourishing yin and curbing excessive yang levels.

The points that can be worked on are yin xi (HT6, 阴郄), shen men (HT7, 神门) and nei guan (PC6, 内关). These can enrich the Heart yin, clear Heat, and regulate the Heart, reducing irregular sweating and easing palpitations and irritability. 

Consultation with a clinical healthcare provider can help identify why you’re experiencing cold sweats. In addition, a TCM practitioner will suggest suitable remedies to support treatment while ensuring they’re safe for your specific constitution.

References

  1. Healthgrades. What is a Cold Sweat? [online] [Accessed 27 July 2022] 
  2. Slumber Yard. 2021. Night Chills And Cold Sweats, Explained. [online] [Accessed 27 July 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety Disorders. [online] [Accessed 27 July 2022]
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Gout. [online] [Accessed 27 July 2022]
  5. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose). [online] [Accessed 27 July 2022]
  6. National Health Service (NHS). Treatment – Anaphylaxis. [online] [Accessed 27 July 2022]

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