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SWEAT 101

Why do you sweat and what influences it's reaction? Find out below. 

Did You Know?

The average person sweats 278 gallons per year

The human body contains about 2 to 4 million sweat glands

5 percent of the population suffers from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) while some people are unable to sweat.

Men sweat about 40% more than women (on average).

What is Sweat?

You sweat every day. But do you know what’s really happening when those sweat droplets begin to form?

Sweat is a type of fluid secreted by your sweat glands. Perspiration is how your body thermoregulates and maintains a toasty 98.6-degree temperature. In hot weather or during activity, your body produces sweat to cool itself down.

How Do You Begin to Sweat?

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The hypothalamus contains thermosensitive neurons that control sweat. When your internal temperature changes, your brain triggers a sweat response. As you sweat and high-energy molecules evaporate on your skin, your body releases energy to return to its core temperature.

Humans sweat the most from their face, armpits, palms of their hands and the soles of their feet.

Eccrine Glands

Location: Across the skin (palms, feet, armpits, forehead)

How it Works: When your body’s internal temperature begins to rise, the hypothalamus activates these sweat glands.

As the sweat evaporates, it helps cool the skin and keep your core temperature from overheating.

Smell: The sweat produced from these glands consists of salt and water, so it doesn’t smell.

Apocrine Glands

Location: Concentrated in the armpits, groin, ear canal and eyelids

How it Works:

Typically end in hair follicles – rather than pores – and don’t develop until puberty.

They secrete a milky fluid that’s odorless until it mixes with bacteria on the skin.

Smell: These sweat glands are often activated in times of stress, which explains why stress sweat tends to smell more than regular sweat.

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Why Do We Sweat?

To Aid in Brain Development

Sweat played a pivotal role in the brain development of early humans. As they ran long distances in the equatorial sun, their bodies developed more sweat glands to help cool their overheated brains, allowing these organs to expand and evolve into the human brain today.

To Reduce Sweat

When exposed to stressful stimuli, your fight-or-flight response center fires, and sweat is a necessary and purposeful reaction. As hormone secretion, blood flow and heart rate increase, your body sweats to help cool itself down

To Ward Off Threats

The smell of stress sweat also acts as a peer-to-peer danger alert system (unlike regular exercise sweat). In the face of predators thousands of years ago, humans needed a nonverbal way to communicate the presence of danger

Why Does Everyone Sweat Differently?

Much has to do with your DNA (or predisposition to sweating) and how your sweat glands are distributed.

If you sweat excessively in one particular area, you could have a higher concentration of sweat glands there. There are a variety of factors that can influence why you excessively produce sweat in one particular area.

  • Gender: Even though women have more sweat glands than men, men produce more sweat.

  • Age: Teens and adults sweat more than children. Sweat usually becomes more regular during puberty, but some children start to experience sweat episodes around age 8 to 10.

  • Body Mass: People with higher body mass sweat more than individuals with a normal BMI. Fat insulates the body and raises its core temperature, which means your body needs to sweat more to cool itself down.

  • Physical Fitness: The fitter you are, the more you sweat. Top athletes sweat much sooner into a workout than sedentary people.

  • Alcohol Intake: Drinking alcohol dilates your blood vessels, which can trigger sweat.

  • Caffeine Intake: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and activates your sweat glands. Drinking a hot cup of coffee can also make you sweat more.

Other Causes of Sweat

STRESS

HOT/HUMID TEMPERATURES

MEDICATION

INFECTION/ILLNESS

EATING SPICY FOODS

NERVES

Types of Sweat Issues

Stress Sweat

Stress sweat is a type of situational sweating that occurs during stressful situations, such as working to meet a deadline or juggling the demands of a career and family. Typical side effects of stress sweat include obvious sweat marks and bad odor.

Nervous Sweat

Another type of situational sweating, nervous sweat occurs due to feelings of anxiety or worry. You might experience nervous sweat during a first date or big presentation.

Night Sweat

 Some people experience night sweats during menopause, illness or fever to help cool the body down. This type of sweat is usually temporary but can interfere with sleep.

Hot Flashes

These shorter bouts of sweat are also the result of hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Hot flashes typically last 2 to 30 minutes and affect women for 10 years on average.

Teen Sweating

During puberty, roughly three million apocrine sweat glands in your armpits, groin, palms and feet become more active. This can cause a sudden (and embarrassing) onset of body odor and sweat stains.

Primary Hyperhidrosis

When you sweat heavily regardless of your environment, it's known as primary or secondary hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis is a form of excessive sweating that has no known cause. People with primary hyperhidrosis produce more sweat than is necessary to regulate body temperature in one particular area, such as the feet, hands, head/face or armpits.

Secondary Hyperhidrosis

People with generalized secondary hyperhidrosis sweat heavily across the body. The cause of secondary hyperhidrosis is usually a medical condition or medication.

Hypohidrosis

The absence of sweat, known as hypohidrosis or anhidrosis, occurs when your sweat glands no longer function properly. Not being able to sweat means your body can’t cool itself down – putting you at risk of overheating.

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