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Do Alcoholics Sweat More? The Smelly Truth

Have you ever gone out and had a few too many drinks, only to stagger back into the house a sticky, sweaty mess?

Or maybe you passed out on the couch in a normal state but woke up with damp clothes smelling like fresh kimchi.

If so, you’ve experienced the unpleasant phenomenon known as alcohol sweats.

But why does it happen? Do alcoholics sweat more than others?

A woman in a blue shirt raises her arm to reveal a sweaty arm pit. Her face scrunches up at the smell. The title reads Do alcoholics sweat more
Do alcoholics sweat more?

Do you sweat more if you’re an alcoholic?

Probably! Alcohol has various effects on the body that can lead to excessive sweating. 

These can occur while you drink as well as after.

If you drink heavily and often, you may sweat for no reason other than constantly trying to metabolize and rid your body of copious amounts of alcohol. 

However, there are more serious effects of drinking, for which sweating can be a symptom. 

I’ll explore all of them, but first, let’s start with why you sweat when you drink

1. Accelerated heart rate

Alcohol impacts your circulatory system, causing the blood vessels in your skin to dilate and your heart rate to increase. This leads to flushing and triggers sweating in some people. 

2. Fluctuations in blood pressure

Drinking a lot of alcohol can affect the muscles in your blood vessels, and it causes them to constrict and become narrower, which increases blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension). 

When your blood pressure increases, your heart has to work harder to push blood out to the rest of the body. This makes some people sweaty. 

3. A rise in metabolic rate 

When you drink alcohol, your body works hard to break it down. A rise in metabolic rate can increase your body temperature, leading to sweating. 

>>More: Does Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism?

4. Stimulation of the hypothalamus

Alcohol impacts your brain in truly profound ways. One of the many things it does to your brain is stimulate the hypothalamus, which is responsible for body temperature, breathing, thirst, and hunger. 

When alcohol stimulates the hypothalamus, you might get sweaty (and ready to chug a gallon of water while scarfing nachos). 

But these are not the only ways alcohol contributes to sweating; post-drinking effects also lead to sweating. 

More>> What Is Wet Brain?

Alcohol-Induced Night Sweats

Night sweats from alcohol occur for many of the same reasons you might sweat while drinking.

If you’ve come home after a night of binge drinking and start sweating in your sleep, this can be attributed to any of the causes of sweating while drinking. 

Most likely, your body is working overtime to metabolize all the alcohol you just put into it. 

But sometimes, alcohol can cause night sweats when you haven’t been drinking, which can be a symptom of a more severe problem.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Excessive Sweating

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can kick in a few hours after your last drink or several days later. 

This is why some people wake up and immediately drink alcohol (the hair of the dog) to manage a bad hangover.  

They are trying to circumvent withdrawal symptoms. (A terrible idea, by the way, and symptomatic of a drinking problem.)

A very sweaty, bearded man sniffs his arm pit. The title reads Alcohol withdrawal and sweating
Alcohol Withdrawal and Sweating

Why does alcohol withdrawal cause sweating?

Excessive sweating during alcohol withdrawal is caused by an overactive autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, digestion, sexual arousal, and perspiration.

When alcohol consumption stops, the body begins to detoxify itself through sweating. Sweating usually starts within 6 to 48 hours after the last drink, depending on the person’s tolerance level for alcohol. The intensity of the sweating varies from mild to severe.

It depends on how much you drink, how often you drink, and your tolerance level. 

Alcohol Intolerance and Excessive Sweating

Another serious cause of alcohol-induced sweat is alcohol intolerance. No, this isn’t the same as building up a tolerance to alcohol. 

Alcohol intolerance is an inability to break down alcohol properly. People with alcohol intolerance lack the enzyme, Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2), which people use to digest alcohol. 

If you have ALDH2 deficiency, your face might get red and warm when you drink alcohol. Excessive facial flushing can lead to sweating. 

Does alcohol make your sweat smell?

It can! When you consume a lot of alcohol, your body struggles to break it down efficiently, and some leftover ethanol ends up in your sweat and urine.

Alcohol is a toxin, and your body can only metabolize about one 12 oz beer per hour. So if you’re consuming more than that, don’t be surprised if you end up smelling flammable. 

That’s because the rest of the alcohol will get broken down via oxidation, which breaks the toxins into smaller parts called diacetic acid, which smells like vinegar. 

I can always tell when my husband has imbibed on too much Jack Daniels because the smell will emanate from every pore, and they do not make a bar of soap or mouthwash strong enough to cover it. 

Other reasons alcohol might induce sweating:

Women who are going through menopause may be more susceptible to alcohol-induced sweating. 

Ironically, alcohol may temporarily relieve hot flashes, but at a cost. The dehydration and increased blood pressure brought on by drinking ultimately make hot flashes worse. 

Bottom Line: Do Alcoholics Sweat More?

Well, do they? Possibly.

But not because alcoholics are fundamentally sweaty people. Alcohol makes a lot of people sweat, so the more you drink, the more often you will be sweaty. 

Usually, sweating is no more than an unsightly (and smelly) effect of drinking. But sometimes, it can be a sign of more serious conditions like alcohol withdrawal or alcohol intolerance. 

If you experience symptoms of either, get medical care. Don’t just try to ride it out. Alcohol withdrawal can turn into a medical emergency if you’re not careful. 

And at the end of the day, we want you to be safe. 

Access should not be a barrier to help.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a therapist with the knowledge and background to help you navigate your specific issues, try BetterHelp. Learn more about my counseling journey with BetterHelp or visit their website below.

A close up of a sweaty woman's collar bone beneath the title why alcohol makes you sweat
Do alcoholics sweat more? PIN

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