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Skin - clammy

Clammy skin is cool, moist, and usually pale.

Considerations

Clammy skin may be an emergency. Call your doctor or your local emergency number, such as 911.

Causes

Home Care

Home care depends on what is causing the clammy skin. Call for medical help if you are not sure.

If you think the person is in shock, lie him or her down on the back and raise the legs about 12 inches. Call your local emergency number (such as 911) or take the person to the hospital.

If the clammy skin may be due to heat exhaustion and the person is awake and can swallow:

  • Have the person drink plenty of fluids
  • Move the person to a cool, shaded place

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seek immediate medical help if the person has any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Altered medical status or thinking ability
  • Chest, abdominal or back pain or discomfort
  • Headache
  • Passage of blood in the stool: black stool, bright red or maroon blood
  • Recurrent or persistent vomiting, especially of blood
  • Possible drug abuse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Signs of shock (such as confusion, lower level of alertness, or weak pulse)

Always contact your doctor or go to the emergency department if the symptoms do not go away quickly.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about the symptoms and the patient's medical history, including:

  • How quickly did the clammy skin develop?
  • Has it ever happened before?
  • Has the person been injured?
  • Is the person in pain?
  • Does the person seem anxious or stressed?
  • Has the person recently been exposed to high temperatures?
  • What other symptoms are present?

Alternative Names

Sweat - cold; Clammy skin; Cold sweat

References

Jones AE, Kline JA. Shock. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 4.

Update Date: 1/1/2013

Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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