Why do people sweat?

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Underarm odor can quickly clear out a room
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Sweating is good and necessary; sweating too much can be a nuisance

Sweating is good and necessary although many may find it a stinky nuisance and prefer that they did not sweat so much. Sweat can stain clothing, produce a stench and is embarrassing if you find that you have a big sweat stain under your arms. Nevertheless, we need to sweat.

When we sweat we release salty liquid from our sweat glands. The nice way of describing this process is called perspiring. Sweating allows us stay cool, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you do not sweat, you can overheat. Sweat pools primarily under your arms, on the palms of your hands and on your feet because this is where the preponderance of your sweat glands is located.

Sweat becomes smelly when it comes into contact with the bacterium that is on your skin.

If you sweat excessively, this is called hyperhidrosis. On the other hand, if you barely sweat at all this is called anhidrosis.  Both conditions can be a cause for concern. Furthermore, if you notice a drastic change in your body odor this may indicate that you have a medical problem.

The amount that an individual sweats is determined by how many sweat glands he has. A baby is born with approximately two to four million sweat glands, which kick into gear during puberty. That is when children need to start wearing antiperspirants because they notice that they are sweating and they begin to develop body odor. Men have more active sweat glands than woman but women have a greater number of sweat glands than men.

When it is hot outside, we sweat and that is the way our body cools itself and regulates body temperature. We sweat when we exercise and we also tend to sweat more when we are nervous, angry or embarrassed. Women who are entering, or are in, menopause, are likely to experience sweating episodes called hot flashes and night sweats. This is caused by the drop in hormones that they are experiencing.

When a person is sweating more than he needs to (hyperhidrosis) this can interfere with his lifestyle, resulting in sweaty palms, profuse sweating under the arms and sweating on the face and scalp, or all of these. He may be afraid to shake hands because his hands are so sweaty and may become socially ill at ease because he is afraid that he has unpleasant body odor. There are treatments available for hyperhidrosis, according to Dr. Rafael Andrade of the University of Minnesota Physicians.

Treatment includes getting Botox injections or undergoing iontophoresis, which is a process where mild electrical shocks are administered. Strong antiperspirants can aid in reducing sweating, as can wearing natural fabrics that breathe. Sweat glands can be surgically interrupted, which stops sweating. This is a minimally invasive surgery and is done on an outpatient basis.


Mayo Clinic

National Institutes of Health

Health Talk, University of Minnesota

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