Monday, October 16, 2006

Question from Jaime - "The sweats"

What is "the sweats"? I keeps reading about it in literature, and I have looked for it online. I can't find it anywhere. Is it an illness that we have today?I would like more on what "the sweats" was if any one can help me. Thank you.


Lara said...

I think what you're referring to is what is called The Sweating Sickness?

The illness had a quick onset, profuse sweating (hence the name) and had a fairly high mortality rate (if I remember correctly).

I read an interesting paper in the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago that suggested that it is similar to Hanta virus, which occasionally has outbreaks in the US southwest (and other places, I'm sure... these are just the ones I hear about the most). If you search on PubMed ( with the terms - english sweating sickness, it will turn up a lot of interesting papers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I have looked all over for information on this disease.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about that also. I found a link connecting profuse sweating to Rheumatic fever and wondered if there was a connection. (
Often a disease is more virulent at it's inception than with its reoccurrences. The rheumatic fever that made the rounds in my childhood was seldom fatal but often debilitating. This is just a guess though.

Lara said...

I'm just pasting the text from the November 2006 podcast in here so I'll have it all in one place for people who are continuing to look for info on the Sweating Sickness.

“The Sweat” or the “Sweating Sickness” was a dreaded illness that took numerous lives in the Tudor period. It is also known as “Sudor Anglicus”. There were 5 outbreaks occurring in the summers of 1485, 1508, 1517, 1528 and 1551. One chronicler wrote of the first outbreak: “A new kind of sickness came through the whole region, which was so sore, so painful and sharp that the like was never heard of to any manners rememberance before that time”. There were some notable victims of the disease, including young Henry and Charles Brandon, Dukes of Suffolk. Young Charles Brandon only held the title of Duke of Suffolk for one day after he followed his older brother to the grave at about the age of 13.

The characteristics of the disease were its sudden onset, headaches, profuse sweating (hence the name), fever, muscle pain, difficulty breathing and usually death in a short space of time, often only a day.

The disease has caught the attention of both modern historians and modern pathologists who have tried to analyze the recorded symptoms and find an illness known today that might fit. If you do a search on, you will turn up roughly two dozen publications in medical journals on the disease. One of the more likely causes is a disease similar to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which there was a large outbreak of in the southwestern US in 1993. Anthrax has also been suggested as a possibility. Undisturbed graves of victims of the English sweating sickness have been found and it is possible that a DNA analysis will finally give us an answer.