Last updated January 7th, 2021
Waking up to your baby drenched in sweat may be no big deal. That’s how most parents describe their kids, right? It would be nineteen degrees and parents sleep in bundles while their toddlers are kicking sheets off. Comes the dog days of summer and they will be soaking their pillows wet. So you figured it’s normal for children to feel stuffy regardless of the outside weather. However, it gets more frequent and you start to think something is up. When should you start worrying about baby night sweats?
Night sweating is common among children regardless of age. When sleeping in a warm room, it’s natural for them to feel hot. You know how a newborn loves the warm environment they can get from swaddling. But overdoing it can also result in overheating, which at some point can get dangerous. There’s no way for the baby to complain except sweltering in his bed. Allergies can also be the culprit in children’s night sweating. But it hardly needs treatment unless he unnaturally sweats a lot and other uncommon symptoms occur.
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Causes of Night Sweating
While sweating at night is common, most moms are concerned about babies’ interrupted sleep. There’s also the possibility of the baby developing heat rashes and yeast infection because of all the moisture. Besides, babies can get really grumpy when soaked.
Here are some probable reasons why your baby seems to drip sweat during the night:
The baby’s room temperature is the obvious reason why your baby is sweating. According to Healthline, the ideal temperature should be between 68° to 72°F (20 to 22.2°C). If you have a thermostat, you should maintain this ambient temperature year-round.
When it’s too cold, babies will usually get chilly and break into cries. And when the room is hot, it might put him at risk for SIDS. If you can’t set the ideal temperature range for your room, dress the baby lightly and according to the weather. Keep him comfortable but avoid overdressing him or bundling him in heavy layers of clothing.
A fan is useful in circulating the air within the room. But remember not to point it directly at your baby. Position it upwards to the ceiling instead.
Movement and Crying
A baby will temporarily sweat when he is exerting energy by crying. But, the lack of movement during sleep also causes sweating. When your baby falls into a deep sleep, he is likely to wake up really sweaty.
The same thing will happen if he does not change his position in his sleep. Newborn children do not sweat as much because they are still developing their sweat glands. Sweat is concentrated only on his head. It’s because a newborn’s most active glands, called eccrine, are located on his forehead. As he grows older, he will soon start perspiring in his torso.
It’s counterintuitive, but SIDS risks increase during the winter when parents over bundle their babies in fear of them getting cold. Some parents may use blankets over their little ones. It is a thoughtful act, but also a very risky one. The American Academy of Pediatrics strictly warns parents against using sheets and soft materials in your baby’s bed. As a rule of thumb, dress a baby with just one more layer than you would wear in a particular environment.
A swaddle for newborn and a sleep sack for older infants will be good enough to keep your baby comfy.
An Underlying Medical Condition
When your baby’s sweating is frequent and excessive, then it’s about time you talk to your doctor. There are instances when it is also a symptom of a medical condition. The common illnesses associated with nighttime sweating in babies are:
1. Allergies or Common Cold
If your baby is fighting a common infection like bacteria from colds, he will sweat more than usual. It is often accompanied by a runny or stuffy nose, cough, or fever. When your child is sick, keep track of his temperature. Know when to give Tylenol for his fever and when to call his doctor. After infection, cold sweat may usually last a little longer even when other symptoms are gone.
If he has an allergy to something he is exposed to, he will also likely to perspire. Runny nose and skin rash is a telltale sign along with sweating.
2. Sleep Apnea
Infant sleep apnea is a rare condition in babies characterized by a pause in breathing. Premature babies are prone to developing sleep apnea, and most of them will eventually outgrow it. Contrary to some beliefs, sleep apnea is not a symptom of SIDS.
Hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating, can also happen to infants. There are two types of it: localized and general. Localized hyperhidrosis occurs only on a certain part of the body like palms, soles, or armpits among others. General hyperhidrosis is rare and affects larger areas of the body.
This condition does not only limit to nighttime sweating but happens to a baby throughout the day. If untreated, the baby will grow with it. It is not a cause for concern but can get annoying and disrupting for his normal activities.
4. Heart Problems
Babies with heart disease sweat abnormally not just during bedtime. It’s because his heart is working harder, and his body would compensate for the effort. Babies with congenital heart problems will have difficulty swallowing and breathing. He will also show bluish lips and skin color.
5. Respiratory Problems
Night sweats happen to babies with inflamed lungs or hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP). It is similar to an allergy and common to children with asthma. It occurs when the baby has inhaled dust or mold and other specific allergens.
Babies with HP will exhibit cough, shortness of breath, and chills, or night sweats. It will eventually clear itself when the irritant is removed. But this condition may also lead to scarring of the lungs.
Treatment for Nighttime Sweating
Generally, nighttime sweating in babies does not need any immediate medical attention. Unless, again, if you suspect symptoms that are telltale signs of something more serious. The least you can do is adjust your baby’s environment to make him feel comfortable.
Here are some tips to reduce it:
- Adjust your room temperature to the ideal ambient temp for the baby.
- Dress your baby in comfortable and light clothing
- Remove any clutter from his crib
- Keep baby’s room well-ventilated
- Keep your baby hydrated but follow the precautions for giving water
SIDS and Nighttime Sweating
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or crib death is a puzzle that experts are yet to figure out. It’s that rare case when a seemingly healthy baby dies in his sleep. The AAP can only offer some recommendations for sleeping positions and a safe environment to help mitigate its risks. That’s because SIDS does not show any symptoms and warnings at all.
Nighttime sweating is logically associated with SIDS since it can be a possible indication that the baby is overheating. It can contribute to risk prediction of crib death, but not in itself a warning sign. So if your baby has nighttime sweat, time to think outside the box. Clear the bed from loose clothing, pillows, and blanket. Also, never ever put your baby to sleep on a soft mattress to lessen the tendency of overheating or worse, suffocation.
Here are AAP’s recommendations to ward off SIDS:
- Babies should sleep in a supine position (on their back)
- Use a firm sleeping surface
- Breastfeed if you can
- Let baby sleep in the same room as you but on a separate bed
- Keep the bed free from loose beddings and objects
- Consider using a pacifier.
- Don’t expose babies to smoke (mothers should also avoid it during pregnancy)
- Avoid overheating babies
When to See the Doctor
Evaluate your baby for abnormal nighttime sweating that may indicate other health issues. If your baby has hyperhidrosis, he may grow with it, but it is treatable. Ask your pediatrician only if the sweating persists despite all measures you take to keep him cool.
If your baby shows other signs of discomfort like banging his head, grinding his teeth, or snoring, consult your pediatrician. This also applies if excessive night sweating is accompanied by dry skin and stool. Otherwise, your baby is fine and just needs to get cool.
Nighttime sweating in babies is normal and parents do not need to sweat it out too. Their body temperature is not yet stable, and works to compensate for its outside environment. If the baby gets cold during the night, he will most likely wake up and cry to show his discomfort.
But one thing you need to be wary of is overheating your child. It is more pressing as it could lead to a fatal crib death risk. So, maintain the correct temperature for your baby’s room and dress him accordingly. Avoid loose and extra beddings and sleep in the same room with him.
If you think something is wrong regarding his cold sweating, talk to his doctor. He can rule out any possible cause if it’s not directly related to your baby’s environment.
Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She had experiences in handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also used to train in labor rooms and pediatric wards – helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.