Why Do I Sweat When I'm Cold? 5 Reasons You're Perspiring While You Shiver, According To Science
Perspiration bothers me less than the average human being — since I grew up in Georgia and have been addicted to hot yoga for a while now, I'm used to being sweaty. But then I started sweating in the dead of New England winter; I was shivering and wearing several layers, but when I got home and stripped down to just a t-shirt, I was weirded out by the wet pit stains on my shirt. We all know the primary purpose of sweating: when the external temperature is high, glands open up in order to produce perspiration, thus regulating the body temperature. So why was I glistening in January, in the freezing cold, while wearing a beanie and two pairs of socks?
Anytime the body functions abnormally, you can bet your bottom dollar there is something it's trying to tell you. And unusual sweat is no exception. Dr. Stephen Lawrence, medical adviser at Diabetes UK, told the Daily Mail (UK) there are a number of reasons you could be dealing with unusual sweating, from hypoglycemia to too much caffeine (though I personally don't want to believe the latter). As always, speak to a doctor if, in your gut, you feel like something is definitely off — but if you're just wondering why you sweat through a snowy winter (or arctic air conditioning), read on to discover the five most common causes behind cold weather sweating.
1. Lack Of Oxygen
Not getting enough oxygen from the air around you is the most common cause of cold perspiration. Check in with your own breathing the next time you're sweating in the cold — are your breaths deep and smooth, or short and shallow? If every inhalation and exhalation is stunted, that may be a sign that you're not getting enough oxygen. Don't worry too much, though. You might just need to move around some more, or perhaps go for a walk during your lunch hour to get the blood flowing properly.
It could also have something to do with your environment, like the temperature you keep your house, the dryness in the air, or the fact that the thermostat in your office is set far too low. Start by addressing these factors, and if the sweat continues to flow, see your doctor.
2. Low Blood Sugar
When you skip meals or haven't munched on anything in a while, our body reacts. As Lawrence notes in the Daily Mail (UK), lack of glucose in the blood levels causes us to produce adrenaline in an attempt to compensate for the lack of nutrition. In other words, the sympathetic nervous system switches on, dropping into the "fight or flight" mode — this phenomenon is also known as hypoglycemia. You naturally produce insulin when you're hungry, which prepares the body for digestion; so when it is combined with adrenaline, it can cause our bodies to function in unusual ways.
Chronic hypoglycemia is a serious medical problem, so if you think you might have it, make sure to see a doctor. But it also can't hurt to keep some healthy snacks on hand, and see if tucking into them when you're hungry, rather than waiting to eat, makes any difference with your sweating.
3. Thyroid Problem
If you have constantly damp armpits — in all weather — it might point to thyroid issues, particularly an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. One of your thyroid gland's jobs is to release a hormone that controls how the body uses its energy stores; it also regulates its sensitivity to other hormones it comes into contact with. Being constantly sweaty is just the tip of the iceberg when it come to the side effects of hyperthyroidism — having an overactive thyroid can lead to serious problems, like osteoporosis and even heart problems. So if you're experiencing other symptoms of hyperthyroidism, like fatigue, sudden weight loss, difficulty sleeping or brittle hair, see a doctor ASAP — and don't worry, hyperthyroidism can be controlled through medication.
4. Medication Side Effects
Countless prescriptions — including anti-depressants, blood pressure pills, some cold and flu remedies, medicines for dry mouth — include sweating as a side effect. If you're currently taking meds, read up on their side effects and see if sweating is a common one. Many doctors report that medication-induced sweating primarily happens at night, when you're wrapped in a blanket and trying to get warm. However, the cold perspiration can happen during the day as well.
Relaxation and exercise, such as yoga, are good ways to combat this; they both prevent overproduction of adrenaline-inducing hormones. It is also suggested you stay away from caffeine and monitor how much sugar you consume in a day, as they both raise the blood pressure and produce adrenaline, which results in more glistening.
About 3 percent of the American population suffer from a condition called hyperhidrosis. If you're sweating excessively and regularly on your face, palms, underarms or feet, you should check in with a medical professional and see if you fall into that category. People with hyperhidrosis lose four or five times as much sweat (that's four or five liters!) in a day as the average person, so it's important you find a way to retain more fluids.
There's also a cold-induced sweating disorder called Crisponi syndrome. It's rare and it's believed to be caused by a mutation of the CRLF1 gene. This results in abnormalities in the nervous system, hence the unusual sweating patterns. Don't fret if you feel like this might be you! Quality of life doesn't need to be diminished. Chat with your doc and see what they can do for you.