Sweating is your body's natural way of cooling itself. People normally sweat in response to thermal stimuli (e.g., hot environments, exercise) or emotional stimuli (e.g., when anxious, embarrassed, or scared).
However, about 2% to 3% of the general population experience excessive sweating - a condition called hyperhidrosis - which can occur with or without a trigger. The most common type is called primary (or focal) hyperhidrosis and it has no known cause, although it seems to run in families.
People with hyperhidrosis may experience frequent sweating that soaks through their clothing. Other symptoms include excessive sweating of the feet, underarms, hands, and face. This condition can cause a significant amount of social anxiety and embarrassment - enough to discourage sufferers from participating in recreational activities.
Here are some tips for reducing excessive sweating and odour:
- Use an antiperspirant. Deodorants simply mask odour, whereas antiperspirants actually reduce the amount of sweat produced by blocking sweat glands. Don't forget to apply to the palm of your hands and the sole of your feet, too.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting an antiperspirant with a high concentration of aluminum chloride if over-the-counter antiperspirants are not working for you.
- Wear clothing made of natural fibres. Natural fibres such as cotton and silk are more breathable than synthetic materials and may help reduce body temperature. This goes for shoes and socks, too.
- Use underarm shields. These can be worn in social situations to prevent stains on clothing.
- Bathe or shower every day. Daily baths or showers help prevent the buildup of bacteria that give sweat an odour.
- Dry your feet thoroughly. Make sure to dry feet thoroughly after showering or bathing, as dampness can promote bacterial growth that leads to odour.
If these tips fail, ask your doctor if other treatments are appropriate for you, such as iontophoresis (low levels of electrical current that temporarily turn off sweat glands), Botox® (to block the nerves that stimulate sweating), or surgery (to disable sweat glands).
If you find that these tips do not help to control your sweating, you are experiencing a sudden increase in sweat, or you are experiencing cold sweats or night sweats, you may have a different type of excessive sweating called secondary (or generalized) hyperhidrosis. This means that your symptoms may be due to an underlying medical condition or disease (e.g., nerve damage or a hormone disorder), or due to a side effect of a medication you are taking. Talk to your doctor.