girl with wavy brown hair and a shocked expression, cold sweats

What Are Cold Sweats and What Causes Them?

Unlike most types of sweat, cold sweats aren’t caused either by heat or working your body hard. They’re actually caused by our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, which is designed to protect us in dangerous situations.

When we feel nervous, anxious or threatened, our breathing and heart rate naturally speed up, sending our body into ‘overdrive’. That, in turn, switches on our sweat glands to keep us cool.

A cold sweat could be brought on simply by watching a scary movie. But if you’re experiencing regular cold sweats, there are certain health conditions your body may be trying to make you aware of. So, you might want to talk to your doctor.

A boy looking stressed out with the words only you can move you written across the image

What are the possible causes of cold sweats?


If your body’s fighting any kind of virus or infection – from flu to chickenpox – your body temperature goes up to help kill the invader at its source. And that can leave other parts of your body experiencing a cold sweat.

Low blood sugar

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will have made you well aware of this already. A cold sweat is one of the early warning signals of hypoglycemia, which requires immediate medical attention. Far less vital, but low blood sugar is also what can give us ‘the sweats’ after a night of heavy drinking.

Thyroid problems

Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. This causes your metabolism to speed up and your body responds as if it’s in ‘fight or flight‘ mode, resulting in symptoms such as anxiety, shaky hands and cold sweats.

Some types of cancer

Certain kinds of cancer, or the cancer treatments themselves, can trigger cold sweats – particularly lymphoma, leukemia, bone cancer, carcinoid tumours and liver cancer.


If you suffer from anxiety attacks or PTSD triggers, you're more likely to experience both cold sweats and anxiety sweatingOpens in a new window.


If you’re on certain types of medication, it’s worth checking out their side effects, as they can sometimes trigger cold sweats. These include some pain medications, blood pressure and cardiovascular drugs, chemotherapy, hormonal treatments, anything targeting the endocrine system and some antibiotics.

If you’re experiencing daily cold sweats or night sweats, along with any of the following: difficulty breathing, pale skin, dizzy spells or feeling weak, then you should book an appointment with your doctor, to check out the underlying cause.

When we feel nervous, anxious or threatened, our breathing and heart rate naturally speed up, sending our body 
into ‘overdrive’.