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5 Down and Dirty Facts About Sweat

It may be a nuisance, but sweating is critical to stay cool.

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By Olivia DeLong

Sweat—we all do it, but no one likes to talk about it. Even though it’s kind of gross, it’s a part of being human and a significant part at that— the human body has between 2 to 4 million sweat glands! While sweating can be a nuisance, sweat serves a purpose. It cools our body down when we get hot. Click through to learn some curious facts about sweat from family medicine practitioner Sorahi Toloyan-Rahimi, MD, of MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas.

Fact #1: Sweat happens in the strangest places

2 / 6 Fact #1: Sweat happens in the strangest places

Do you feel like you sweat a lot in weird spots, like your eyebrows or around your mouth? Don’t worry; it’s normal. Sweat glands are located all over the body, and some spots have more glands than others. “Hands, feet and armpits all have a lot of sweat glands, so we sweat more in those areas,” says Dr. Toloyan-Rahimi. Additional sweat hot spots are the forehead, upper lip, scalp and groin.

Fact #2: Food can make you sweat

3 / 6 Fact #2: Food can make you sweat

You probably know that spicy food can make you sweat, but did you know that alcohol, chocolate and tomato sauce can too? It’s weird, right? Here’s why: “They irritate the nerves that go to the sweat glands, activate them and that produces more sweating,” explains Toloyan-Rahimi.

There’s also a condition called gustatory sweating that causes you to sweat when you eat. It’s sometimes the result of a damaged nerve to the salivary glands or diabetic neuropathy. If you have the condition, even eating ice cream can cause beads of sweat to drip down your neck at the most inopportune times.

Fact #3: Your health or medications may be to blame

4 / 6 Fact #3: Your health or medications may be to blame

Certain medical conditions can cause excessive sweating, including thyroid disease, acromegaly, pheochromocytoma, diabetes, lymphoma, pregnancy, menopause and Parkinson’s disease. Also certain types of medications can make you sweat more, including some pain medicines, antidepressants and thyroid hormones, to name a few.

If you’re sweating more than usual or have other symptoms, it’s time to see your doctor. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor can determine if it’s related to a medical problem and relay your treatment options.

Fact #4: Antiperspirants are safe

5 / 6 Fact #4: Antiperspirants are safe

The safety of antiperspirants has been called into question with worries that aluminum chloride in antiperspirants may cause dementia or Alzheimer’s. But Toloyan-Rahimi isn’t concerned and says you shouldn’t be either. “… Antiperspirants don’t have much aluminum chloride. Since the systemic absorption is not high … we are okay,” says Toloyan-Rahimi. But she does caution against using antiperspirants if you’ve got a cut. “If you have any wound in the armpit, you shouldn’t use any antiperspirants,” she says. It can irritate the cut or abrasion and delay even healing.

Fact #5: Excessive sweating is treatable

6 / 6 Fact #5: Excessive sweating is treatable

Most people can keep their sweat (and BO) in check by washing with an antibacterial soap every day and using antiperspirant deodorant. However, deodorant alone won’t help with sweat—you need an antiperspirant, says Toloyan-Rahimi.

If you sweat more than you think is normal or if it becomes a problem, there are many treatments that may help, including prescription-strength antiperspirants, Botox, mild electrical current therapies, anticholinergic medicines and even surgery to remove the sweat glands. In addition, says Toloyan-Rahimi, Nd:YAG lasers, usually used to remove unwanted hair, can be used to destroy sweat glands.

 

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