Cold sweat

Alternative names 
Sweat - cold; Clammy skin; Skin - clammy

Clammy skin is cool, moist, and usually pale.

Alternative names 
Sweat - cold; Clammy skin; Cold sweat

Clammy skin is cool, moist, and usually pale.


Clammy skin may be an indication of an emergency situation, and the doctor should be notified immediately.

Common Causes

  • shock (such as hypovolemic shock, cardiogenic shock, or septic shock)  
  • severe pain  
  • heart attack  
  • anxiety attack  
  • heat exhaustion

Home Care

For shock, the patient should lie down on the back with legs elevated about 12 inches. Either call for emergency help or take the victim to a hospital. For heat exhaustion, have the person drink plenty of fluids and move to a cool, shaded environment.

Call your health care provider if

  • shortness of breath, chest discomfort, or signs of shock (such as confusion, diminished consciousness, or weak pulse) are present. If you are unable to reach your provider, call for emergency help or take the victim to a hospital.  
  • contact your doctor if the symptoms do not resolve quickly.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Note: If the person is hard to awaken, has difficulty breathing, or has a rapid, weak pulse this is an emergency!

Medical history questions documenting clammy skin in detail may include:

  • time pattern  
  • How quickly did this develop?  
  • Did it develop suddenly?  
  • Has it ever happened before?  
  • aggravating factors  
  • Has there been an injury?  
  • Is the person ill?  
  • Are they in pain?  
  • Do they seem anxious or stressed?  
  • Has there been a recent exposure to high temperatures?  
  • other  
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Vital signs (temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, blood pressure) will be monitored, a cause determined, and appropriate emergency measures will be taken.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.