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Night sweats are a common symptom of multiple conditions and diseases. They can even be caused by stress or new medications.

They can also be a symptom of an HIV infection.

In some people, night sweats and other flu-like symptoms can develop within the first month after contracting the infection and can lead people to the doctor and a diagnosis.

Sweat is your body’s way of responding to things that cause it to work harder than normal, including:

  • exposure to heat
  • physical stress
  • emotional stress
  • diseases or conditions

Sleep is a vital part of your body’s fight against disease. Your body works to repair itself while you’re asleep. That’s why you often feel much better after a goodnight’s sleep. It’s also why night sweats can happen when your body is trying to fight a serious condition, such as HIV.

Night sweats can be very uncomfortable, potentially causing soaked:

  • pajamas
  • underwear
  • bedsheets
  • mattresses

Night sweats on their own aren’t usually a symptom of HIV. In fact, it’s very rare for night sweats to be the only symptom a person with HIV will have. When you have night sweats as a symptom of HIV, you’ll likely also have:

These symptoms are also common in other conditions and don’t always mean you have HIV. However, if you’re having night sweats or any other symptoms, and you have reason to think you might have been exposed to HIV, it’s a good idea to call a medical professional as soon as possible.

To get answers quickly, you can take a rapid at-home HIV test.

Night sweats caused by HIV can occur at a few different times. They often happen during the early phase of HIV called the acute phase.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the acute phase occurs within 2 to 4 weeks after you contract HIV. The symptoms you’ll have during this phase are similar to those with the flu and often include night sweats.

Night sweats can also occur if HIV is untreated and has progressed to AIDS. Night sweats can be severe when HIV has progressed to AIDS. At this stage you might also experience:

No matter what stage of HIV is causing night sweats, they will very rarely occur on their own. You’ll have at least a few of the other listed symptoms along with night sweats when the cause is HIV. If your only symptom is night sweats, there is most likely a different cause.

Night sweats that occur during the acute phase of HIV should stop once you’ve been diagnosed with HIV and are receiving effective treatment. This is known as the chronic (clinically latent) phase. People in this phase who are taking their prescribed medication therapy often have no symptoms.

When to seek medical treatment for night sweats

Night sweats can be caused by several things, including:

  • stress
  • stomach acid reflux
  • new medication
  • hormones

It’s a good idea to mention the above symptoms to your medical professional.

However, night sweats can also be caused by more serious conditions such as:

  • HIV
  • some types of cancers
  • other serious infections
  • neurological conditions that need treatment as soon as possible

You should seek medical treatment for your night sweats if you have:

  • trouble sleeping
  • unexplained weight loss
  • aches and pains
  • a high fever
  • chills
  • a cough that doesn’t go away
  • a cough that produces blood
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
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During the acute phase, night sweats aren’t necessarily a symptom that your HIV is more severe or has a worse outlook. If you’re diagnosed with HIV, it’s a good idea to begin treatment.

HIV is treated by antiretroviral drugs that reduce the amount of the virus that is present in your body. The amount of virus present in your body is known as your viral load.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that most people can manage their HIV with antiretroviral medication in 6 months or less. You’ll still need to take antiretrovirals at this point, but you’ll be in the chronic phase of HIV and won’t have symptoms, including night sweats.

With the right treatment, HIV can remain in the chronic phase indefinitely. HIV in the chronic phase is an asymptomatic, manageable condition.

Tips for coping with night sweats

Night sweats can cause you to feel very uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing night sweats, there are ways to help you get back to sleep and prevent more night sweating. Some at-home steps include:

  • taking a cold shower or bath
  • changing into fresh nightclothes
  • changing your sheets
  • turning the temperature down in your room
  • opening a window
  • drinking cold water during the night
  • putting an ice pack under your pillow
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Night sweats are an uncomfortable symptom of many conditions, including HIV. If you’ve contracted HIV, during the acute phase you will likely have other flu-like symptoms along with night sweats.

Once you begin HIV treatment and enter the chronic phase, your night sweats and other symptoms may be relieved.