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Skin - clammy

Definition

Clammy skin is cool, moist, and usually pale.

Alternative Names

Sweat - cold; Clammy skin; Cold sweat

Considerations

Clammy skin may be an emergency. Call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Common 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, have the person drink plenty of fluids and move to a cool, shaded environment.

Call your health care provider if

Seek immediate medical help if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • 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
  • 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 health care provider's office

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?

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.


Review Date: 1/7/2011
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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