Clammy skin usually refers to skin that is wet from sweating.
When the body is too hot, it sweats and uses the moisture it creates to cool the body down. Some people will also sweat when they are nervous. Both of these are entirely natural occurrences.
However, if a person frequently has clammy skin, they may wish to speak to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Sweating excessively or for no apparent reason may be a sign of another health condition.
The most likely reason why a person has clammy skin is that they are too hot.
Sweating is part of the body’s complex heat regulation system.
The skin stores most of the body’s water and when heat activates the sweat glands, some of that moisture comes to the surface.
This moisture cools the body down but can make the skin feel wet.
Sometimes, this mechanism does not work correctly, and a person can be sweaty or have clammy skin when they are not hot.
Medical conditions that can cause excessive sweating and clammy skin include:
Hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that occurs even when the body does not need to be cooled down.
Many people with hyperhidrosis sweat from just one or two parts of the body, such as the palms, feet, under the arms, or on top of the head. These areas may drip with sweat, while the rest of the body stays dry.
Hyperhidrosis can affect everyday activities and reduce a person’s quality of life. The skin in the affected areas can turn soft and white and can even peel off. It can also lead to infections, such as athlete’s foot and jock itch.
Doctors can often diagnose hyperhidrosis in a person’s childhood or adolescence.
Some people may experience periods of sweating during perimenopause and menopause. This sweating usually occurs during a hot flash or at night.
Fluctuations in estrogen and other hormone levels typically cause hot flashes and night sweats.
A fever is part of the body’s natural immune response and is not necessarily cause for alarm.
As the body fights off the infection, the fever will usually reduce. If a fever lasts more than 48 hours, a person should see a doctor.
An overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, can cause excessive sweating. This is because the condition increases a person’s metabolism, making them feel warm.
Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- excitability and hyperactivity
- problems sleeping
- heat sensitivity
- excessive thirst
In rare cases, a cold sweat or clammy skin is a symptom of a heart attack. Heart attacks require immediate medical attention.
Other major warning signs to look out for are:
- chest pain or discomfort
- pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
- shortness of breath
If sweating or nervousness causes clammy skin, it does not require any medical treatment.
If a doctor diagnoses a person with hyperhidrosis, they may recommend iontophoresis.
Iontophoresis, commonly known as a no-sweat machine, works by temporarily shutting down the sweat glands. Iontophoresis is one option for people with hyperhidrosis of the hands or feet.
Botox injections are another treatment option. Several prescription medicines can also provide short-term relief from hyperhidrosis.
Women who experience hot flashes may decide to start hormone replacement therapy or another treatment. It is best to speak with a doctor about the possible side effects before starting any treatment.
Fevers tend to resolve themselves as the body fights off the infection. A person can also take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease uncomfortable symptoms.
Doctors may recommend a variety of treatments for hyperthyroidism, including medications and lifestyle changes to ease symptoms.
Antiperspirants can reduce sweating, and a person can use them on any part of the body, including the hands and feet. Applying antiperspirant to dry skin before going to bed can help with nighttime sweating.
People who have sweaty feet can follow self-care tips to help avoid odors and skin infections, such as athlete’s foot. These tips include:
- wearing sandals where possible
- wearing shoes made of natural materials rather than plastic
- avoiding wearing the same shoes 2 days in a row to allow them to dry completely
- changing socks daily and more frequently if they get wet
If sweating causes clammy skin, it is not usually a cause for concern and does not require medical attention.
If a person is sweating excessively and for no apparent reason, however, there may be an underlying cause.
Someone who has clammy skin along with other signs of a heart attack requires immediate emergency medical and should call 911 or their local emergency number.
If someone is experiencing the symptoms of underlying conditions, such as hyperhidrosis or hyperthyroidism, they should speak to a doctor about getting a proper diagnosis.
People who experience hot flashes during perimenopause that are interfering with everyday life can speak to a doctor about creating a personalized treatment plan.
If a person has a fever, they should seek medical attention, especially if dehydration, dizziness, weakness, or confusion accompany the fever.