Everett Clinic Family Medicine physician, Dr. Stephen Campbell, was featured in the Herald's, " Should anyone get all worked up about sweating?"
What do fear, fever and physical activity all have in common?
Soaked pits, wet palms and sticky foreheads.
Sweating may stink, but it’s how we regulate temperature during stress. Our body heat goes up, water evaporates off the skin and our body heat goes back down.
You can sweat in hot, cold or mild weather — in a swimsuit or a ski jacket. What matters is why you do it and how wet things get.
“You get a little nervous and sweat about it? That’s completely normal,” said Dr. Stephen Campbell, a family physician at the Everett Clinic. “It’s abnormal when it really starts to cause disability or interfere with normal functioning.”
If you soak through your shirt at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday for no reason, that might be a problem worth looking into.
Start with a primary care doctor, who will walk through your medical history to pinpoint a reason for the perspiration. Is a medication to blame? Drugs often alter your body temperature, so sweating is a common side effect.
About a quarter of people who take antidepressants notice a spike in perspiration. Other pills that rapidly bring your temperature down, like Tylenol when you have a fever, can cause a cold sweat.
Conditions like menopause are known to cause hot flashes.
“That’s a normal physiological response to changing hormones,” Campbell said. But drenching night sweats can be signs of cancer or chronic infection.
There’s not always an underlying cause. Some people just sweat a lot. Hyperhidrosis, or extreme perspiration, affects up to 3 percent of the world’s population.
The most common treatment is a topical aluminum chloride solution. A popular brand, Drysol, comes in a rub-on bottle that can be applied to armpits, hands, lower backs, feet — and anywhere else a leak needs to be plugged.
If the heavy perspiration continues, your doctor may send you to a specialist who can disrupt your sweat glands through Botox, lasers or microwave technology.
In the meantime, try to relax. Anxiety can make things worse. When you sweat, you might get self-conscious, which can cause you to sweat more.
“It can perpetuate itself,” Campbell said. If you sweat every time you speak in front of a group, look into breathing routines or mindfulness techniques.
Sick of people staring at your stained under arms? Opt for an undershirt to catch the sweat, and if that doesn’t work, start shopping for darker patterns. It’s easy to spot sweat on a bright pink shirt, not so much on a navy blue one.
Avoid foods and drinks that make you sweat. Some people find that spicy cuisine or caffeine gets their glands to open up.
If you’re overweight, fat-burning exercise might be worth exploring.
“Let’s face it, the chubby guy tends to sweat more than the skinny guy, because he’s got more insulation,” Campbell said.
That said, if a recent increase in sweating is accompanied by weight loss, that can be a sign of a health condition.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, some people don’t sweat at all. This condition, called anhidrosis, can be deadly since it blocks the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Some people have this to mild degrees, or in isolated areas, so they may go their whole lives without noticing.
Oh, and no matter what how much you sweat, don’t compare yourself to a pig. That stubborn idiom just isn’t true: Pigs only have a small number of sweat glands, which don’t work very well, so they roll around in mud to cool off .
Chances are you’re sweating way more than any pig.