Toddler Night Sweats: Why Does It Happen And How To Treat It

Did you know that night sweating is common in toddlers? While it may not be alarming, it definitely makes the little one uncomfortable. In some cases, night sweating might be a symptom of some medical condition. MomJunction gives you a detailed insight into why toddlers sweat excessively, and how it can be treated. Read on!

 What Is Night Sweating In Toddlers?

Night sweats are episodes of excessive sweating at night. The medical term for the condition is nocturnal hyperhidrosis or sleep hyperhidrosis (1). Parents learn of it when the toddler wakes up due to excessive sweating or when the toddler’s clothes and bedding are found damp in the morning.

Is It Normal For Toddlers To Sweat While Sleeping?

Yes! Toddlers have a high density of sweat glands that activate quickly even with a gradual rise in ambient temperature (2). The ratio of sweat gland density to the surface area of the skin is also higher than that in adults. This means the density of sweat produced on a toddler’s skin is greater than that of adults.

Why Does My Toddler Sweat In Sleep?

The high-density sweat glands in toddlers are triggered by various factors. Here are the causes of night sweat in toddlers:

  • Overheating: If the sleeping environment is hot or humid, then it could lead to excessive sweating in the toddler. Binding the preschooler in too many layers of blankets can also make them wake up sweaty in the morning. Sweating due to overheating is normal when there is no fever or any medical condition.
  • Fever: A fever can cause night sweats when the body returns to the normal temperature by ridding itself of excess body heat through sweat evaporation (3).
  • Nightmares and night terrors: Fear and active imagination of a preschooler may trigger nightmares and night terrors that cause the characteristic over-sweating on face and head (4).
  • Sleep apnea: Obstructed airway causes temporary suspension of breathing, thus resulting in sleep apnea. One of the several symptoms of this condition in toddlers is excessive nighttime sweating (5).
  • Certain cancers: Night sweating is commonly observed in some types of cancers such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (6).
  • Thyroid problems: Congenital thyroid problems can cause hyperthyroidism, which leads to cold sweats at night (7).
  • Genetic problems: Conditions resulting from defective genes, such as cystic fibrosis, congenital heart problem, and autism spectrum disorders (8) (9) (10), lead to night sweats and damp the toddler’s skin.

Do note that night sweating is NOT an exclusive sign of the above conditions and other glaring symptoms are quite likely to catch your attention first. So do not fret! The best solution is to see a doctor to know the exact cause of night sweating.

When To See A Doctor For Toddler’s Night Sweating?

See the pediatrician right away when the following conditions accompany night sweating:

  • Fever with a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) (11)
  • Skin rashes and blisters
  • Itching of skin
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Snoring and gasping while asleep
  • Weight loss and inadequate diet

The doctor would arrive at the exact cause after running a few diagnostic tests.

How Is Night Sweats In Toddlers Diagnosed?

The condition is diagnosed symptomatically. It means the doctor will look for the underlying conditions such as a fever or presence of some genetic problems. Blood tests and physical examination are used to determine the fundamental cause of the condition.

Is There A Treatment For Toddler’s Night Sweats?

If an underlying medical problem causes night sweats, then that condition would be treated first. The following procedures are used to deal with chronic night sweating (12):

  • Topical ointments: It contains substances called antiperspirants, which block the sweat ducts leading to lesser perspiration. Ointments are applied once every 24 hours before the toddler goes to bed. Topical creams and antiperspirant talcum powders are usually sufficient to control night sweating in toddlers. The subsequent treatment methods are seldom used.
  • Oral medications: These medicines are called anticholinergic agents and subdue the quantity of sweat produced. They do not, however, prevent sweating.
  • Surgical and other invasive procedures: The nerve impulses to a few overactive sweat glands are permanently blocked through a surgical procedure called thoracic sympathectomy. Other intrusive treatments are electrical therapy and botox injections. Electrical therapy blocks sweat ducts using electrical impulses while botox injections are administered to excessively sweaty parts of the body to suppress sweat production.

Medications, and especially surgeries, may distress the toddler. So, you could try ways to manage and prevent night sweats at home.

How To Stop Night Sweats In Toddlers?

Here is what you can do to manage and prevent night sweats in toddlers:

  • Dress the toddler in loose-fitting nightwear to alleviate the chances of sweating. Also, choose natural fabrics such as cotton or linen for toddlers as it facilitates ventilation. Natural fabrics also soak sweat thus letting it evaporate quickly.
  • Select light bedding and do not tuck the toddler in layers of blankets if he is prone to night sweats. Instead, pick a lightweight blanket or a comfortable bed sheet that is breathable. Avoid pillows that are so soft that the toddler’s head sinks into it, as it limits ventilation near the toddler’s head.
  • Keep the room ventilated and regulate the room temperature so that it is not too warm and there is an adequate flow of air. If it is humid, purchase a dehumidifier. Excess humidity can make the toddler sweat.
  • Manage nightmares and night terrors by maintaining a soothing bedtime routine such as giving a bath and reading a story before bedtime. Use a dim night light in the toddler’s room to reduce his chances of waking up frightened and sweating.

There could be instances when not much of an intervention is required.

What If Your Toddler Has No Health Issues But Still Has Night Sweats?

If your toddler is healthy, happy, and has normal growth even after several nights of excessive sweating, then there is no reason to worry. The ratio of sweat gland to skin surface area improves with growth. Therefore, your little one will outgrow the condition and will sweat the usual way during the night (13).

Night sweating can be messy as the toddler’s clothes and bedding may have to be changed in the middle of the night. However, the condition does not last forever. Relief is instantaneous if the underlying cause is treated. When there is nothing wrong, then it is best to wait it out. As the preschooler grows, the problem disappears thus becoming a yet another condition of toddlerhood.

Leave a Comment