Sweating

Sweating is heavy perspiration that can happen at night or even when the room is cool. There may be enough to soak your clothes. Such sweating is common when a fever breaks. You may notice that you sweat a lot a short time after shaking chills. (See the section called “ Fever.”)

What to look for

  • Feeling wet or damp during the night or waking up to find sheets damp
  • Fever followed by heavy sweating as the body temperature goes back down
  • Shaking chills
  • Drenching sweats even when there’s no fever

What the patient can do

  • Take medicine to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), if you’ve been told to do so.
  • Dress in 2 layers of clothing. The layer on the inside will act as a wick to pull moisture up and away from the skin.
  • Change wet clothes as soon as you can.
  • Keep your bed linens dry.
  • If you’re sweating a lot, bathe at least once a day to soothe your skin and for good hygiene.

What caregivers can do

  • Help the patient keep clothes and bed linens dry.
  • Check the patient’s temperature by mouth a few times a day and in the evening.
  • Offer extra liquids to replace the fluid that’s lost through sweat.
  • Offer to help the patient with a tub bath or shower if needed.

Call the cancer team if the patient:

  • Becomes dehydrated from frequent soaking sweats (See the section called “ Fluids (lack of) and dehydration.”)
  • Has fever of 100.5° F or higher (when taken by mouth) for more than 24 hours
  • Has tremors or shaking chills

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Medical Review: June 8, 2015 Last Revised: June 8, 2015

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