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What's Causing My Clammy Skin?

Clammy skin refers to wet or sweaty skin. Sweating is your body’s normal response to overheating. The moisture of sweat has a cooling effect on your skin.

Changes in your body from physical exertion or extreme heat can trigger your sweat glands and cause your skin to become clammy. This is normal. However, clammy skin that occurs for no apparent reason can be the sign of a serious medical condition.

What Causes Clammy Skin?

Clammy skin that isn’t a result of physical exertion or a reaction to hot weather can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Don’t ignore this symptom. You should always report it to your doctor. In order to relieve clammy skin, the underlying cause must be discovered and treated.

Common Causes

Clammy skin can be a symptom of several conditions, such as a kidney infection and the flu. Other common causes of clammy skin include:

  • panic attacks
  • low blood sugar
  • an overactive thyroid
  • hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating
  • menopause
  • alcohol withdrawal syndrome

More Serious Conditions

Clammy skin can also be a sign of a more serious health condition. These include:

  • hypotension, which is low blood pressure
  • internal bleeding
  • heat exhaustion

Clammy skin can also be one of the symptoms associated with a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks one of your coronary arteries. Coronary arteries take blood and oxygen to your heart muscle. If your heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen, your heart muscle cells will die and your heart won’t work the way it should. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you believe you’re having a heart attack.


Another possible cause of clammy skin is shock. Shock is commonly thought of as the response to emotional distress or sudden fright in response to a traumatic event. However, in medical terms, it occurs when you don’t have enough blood circulating around your body. Shock is your body’s response to a sudden drop in pressure.

A few possible causes of shock include:

  • uncontrolled bleeding
  • internal bleeding
  • a severe burn
  • a spinal injury

Clammy skin is one of the common symptoms of shock. Shock can be a deadly condition if it isn’t treated immediately. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you believe you’re going into shock.

When to Call Your Doctor

You should call a doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to clammy skin:

  • pale skin
  • moist skin
  • pain in the chest, abdomen, or back
  • pain in the limbs
  • rapid heart rate
  • shallow breathing
  • weak pulse
  • altered thinking ability
  • persistent vomiting, especially if there’s blood in the vomit

Call your doctor or go to the emergency department if the symptoms don’t quickly go away.

Clammy skin that’s accompanied by certain symptoms might be the result of a severe allergic reaction. You should call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you experience any of the following symptoms along with clammy skin:

  • hives or skin rash
  • trouble breathing
  • facial swelling
  • swelling in the mouth
  • swelling in the throat
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid, weak pulse
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of consciousness

Clammy skin can also be a symptom of shock. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you believe you’re going into shock. Symptoms of shock can include:

  • anxiety
  • chest pain
  • blue fingernails and lips
  • low or no urine output
  • rapid pulse
  • weak pulse
  • shallow breathing
  • unconsciousness
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • confusion
  • pale, cool, clammy skin
  • profuse sweating or moist skin

Chest pain is the most common sign of a heart attack, but some people have little or no chest pain. The pain can last more than 20 minutes. It can be severe or mild. Clammy skin can also be one of the signs of a heart attack. Certain other symptoms can also indicate a heart attack. You should call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you experience any of the following symptoms along with clammy skin:

  • anxiety
  • cough
  • fainting
  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • heart palpitations or a feeling like your heart is beating too fast or irregularly
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating, which can be very heavy
  • radiating arm pain and numbness, usually in the left arm

At Your Doctor’s Office

To determine the cause of your symptom, your doctor will go over both your medical history and that of your family. They may also ask you questions about your eating habits and daily activities.

If your doctor suspects that your clammy skin is due to a heart problem, they’ll test your heart’s rhythm through an electrocardiogram test (EKG) test. Your doctor will connect small electrodes to your skin. These are connected to a machine that can read your heart rhythm.

Your doctor will take a small sample of your blood to test your hormone levels and check for signs of infection if they think you have a hormone imbalance.

How Is Clammy Skin Treated?

The treatment for clammy skin depends on its underlying cause. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are both treated by rehydrating with fluids using an intravenous line (IV) line. You may need to stay in a hospital during your treatment if you have heat exhaustion and symptoms of shock.

You’ll need immediate medical attention if a life-threatening condition such as shock or a heart attack is causing your clammy skin.

For a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, you’ll need a medication called epinephrine to counteract your allergic reaction. Epinephrine is a type of adrenaline that stops your body’s reaction to the allergen that’s causing your symptoms.

Clammy skin caused by hormonal imbalances from menopause or andropause, or male menopause, can be treated with replacement hormone medication. This medication is only available by prescription.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook for Clammy Skin?

Above all, you should listen to your body. You should contact your doctor if you’re sweating profusely or suffering from clammy skin. Your doctor can run the necessary tests to find out what’s causing your clammy skin and help you get to the root of the problem.

Content licensed from:

Written by: April Kahn and Brian Wu
Medically reviewed on: Nov 23, 2015: Debra Sullivan, PhD, RN, CNE, COI

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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