Sweating is the body's way of cooling off and almost always normal, if slightly annoying. We tend to sweat in response to warmer temperatures or when we exert ourselves, be it a brisk walk on a hot summer day, carrying three weeks’ worth of laundry up three flights of stairs or working out on an elliptical trainer.
When sweat glands get ambitious, however, and sweating becomes excessive, it can be a source of embarrassment and is known as hyperhidrosis. Before you go on WebMD and diagnose yourself with diabetes, lung disease or cancer — all of which may cause excessive sweating in some people — take a look at what could be causing your sweat glands to work double-time.
Let’s get the scary ones out of the way. First, excessive sweating — read: you sweat excessively even in an air-conditioned room while at rest — is called “hyperhidrosis.” Excessive sweating may also be the underlying cause of various medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
Before you assume the worst, take a look at your medical history and keep a chart of when your sweat glands kick into overdrive. Keeping a diary will give you a clear picture of how often and when you are sweating profusely. Are you sweating even when you are sitting in an air-conditioned room or when you are walking at leisure in the dead of winter? If so, it may be a good idea to head to doctor to confirm what’s causing it.
If it’s happening in the summertime because humidity has declared war on you or after you’ve had the three-alarm chili from your favorite place, then you can probably breathe easy. Still, if you are concerned that there might be something terribly amiss, log off the interwebs and off to the doctor with you — and arrange for a second opinion while you’re at it.
Not surprisingly, just as your excessive sweating may be the result of a medical condition, it may also be the result of a medication you are taking. Make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medication you are taking and sit down with your doctor to sort out which, if any, might be making you look like you just ran a marathon in 100% humidity.
Stress is a formidable opponent. It often plays dirty and causes an assortment of issues with our bodies, profuse sweating being one of them. Of course, someone who is already self-conscious about sweating excessively will likely stress out at the first sign of sweat droplets and end up sweating even more. Who needs a sauna when you can just worry about your final exam being on the same day your thesis is due and then worry some more about the ever-expanding sweat stains forming in your armpit area?
It may be easy to dismiss hormone fluctuations as problems only pregnant of menopausal women have to go through, but hormones can act up in anyone regardless of age or gender, particularly if something is up with your thyroid gland. Hormone fluctuations can lead to profuse sweating.
No, this does not mean that if you are super fit or very thin you are exempt from profuse sweating. Overactive sweat glands are not the exclusive domain of people carrying extra weight around. That said, someone who is overweight will have a tendency to sweat a bit more than usual simply because the body is exerting itself more to compensate for those extra pounds. Increased blood flow can cause excessive sweating. Losing weight, therefore, might help keep those hyper sweat glands in check.
Botox ain’t for the smooth, if expressionless, masses anymore. Apparently, injecting the ole Botox into problem areas can help curb profuse sweating. Herbal remedies also claim to help with excessively sweaty palms, soles and armpits. Sage is said to be one such remedy.
A word of caution: There is such a thing as overdosing on sage, so before you decide to embark on herbal remedies of any kind, talk to your medical doctor — the science guy — and make sure it’s a safe game plan that won’t end up hurting you.
Antibacterial soaps and deodorants are your friend. And consider applying deodorant to those parts of you that tend to sweat more as the temperatures climb and the humidity shows no mercy. It’s not just for your armpits, you know. Carry deodorant with you so you can re-apply as needed.
Some people recommend baby powder or corn starch, but that can get messy for some. If powder is not for you, consider applying deodorant to the soles of your feet, the palms of your hand and any other problem areas. Look into getting absorbent insoles, too.
When you shower, dry yourself off completely with a clean towel. Don’t dress while you’re still damp because you’ll only end up feeling damper than you actually are. Put that sweet, retro polyester suit away, and wear lose, comfortable clothing made of breathable fabric, such as cotton.
It’s not the case with everyone across the board, but if you see an uptick in your sweating after drinking hot, caffeinated beverages or eating spicy food, then cut back. Don’t worry. Winter is coming. Eventually. And you can go back to enjoying your hot café latte and spicy tuna in no time.
In the meantime, if the day star during summer is the only time you shy away from those button-down shirts for fear of pit stains, then try your best to keep to the shade and take refuge at the nearest air-conditioned room you can find.