Raise Your Hand If You’re Tired Of Too Much Sweat
Are your teen’s summer whites marred by unsightly underarm stains? Does your high schooler layer on oversized hoodies or sweatshirts, even on a warm day? If you notice pee-colored perspiration stains on every white tee in your son or daughter’s laundry and the acrid smell of armpit lingers even after washing, it might be time to have a chat about sweat.
Sure, sweating is healthy for us. Our bodies were designed to sweat to prevent us from overheating. During times of exertion or excessive heat, our nervous system naturally responds by stimulating our eccrine glands and releasing a mixture of water, sodium and other chemicals which drain from the glands to cool us. Consider the process like running under a yard sprinkler on a hot summer day.
But what happens when the nervous system begins to send the wrong signal? Rather than perspiring on the basketball court, suddenly your child begins sweating while sitting in an air-conditioned classroom. Your son’s armpits may always be ringed with wetness, or your daughter’s palms may continuously sweat or the soles of her feet may always feel damp. Some may even perspire excessively around their hairline.
If this is happening to your child, it may be a condition called hyperhidrosis, which—when broken down—means too much sweat. Hyperhidrosis is a treatable medical condition which can negatively impact a person’s life, affect their self-esteem and limit them socially. Students’ participation in class may be hindered by their unwillingness to raise their hand for fear of exposing their underarms. Certain tasks may prove difficult if their palms are damp and slippery with sweat. Their books and papers may be dotted with sweat as it drips from their forehead. Dating life may be hampered by the embarrassment of too much sweat. Imagine being a teen and struggling with the social anxiety of such a visible ailment.
But adolescents aren’t the only population to suffer this condition. Though the onset of hyperhidrosis is more commonly seen in puberty, the condition can affect males or females in any climate, at any age and of any race. Adults in the work place may struggle with the embarrassment and discomfort of excessive sweating just as students do in the school setting.
Why My Child?
Though it is not known what triggers the nervous system to begin to overcool the body, there are some known associations. Often times hyperhidrosis is seen in more than one family member which identifies a genetic component. The condition may also affect those with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, gout or menopause. Some medications—such as certain steroids and antidepressants to name just two—may contribute to excessive perspiration. Additionally, the onset of hyperhidrosis may occur after an accident or injury.
What Can We Do?
The first step is to see a doctor. Once the condition has been properly diagnosed, your physician may start with the first line of defense: antiperspirants. Though use of over-the-counter antiperspirants may have already been tried, your physician may choose to provide a prescription-strength formula. Antiperspirants are generally inexpensive and easy to apply. They work to block sweat glands which tells the body that no further sweat need be produced in that area. Antiperspirants may be applied to the underarms, the palms and the soles of the feet.
Another form of treatment for the hands and feet is iontophoresis. Iontophoresis involves soaking the hands and/or feet in a small vat of water under low-voltage current. Sweat glands in the affected area are deadened temporarily providing relief for an unspecified period of time. This method generally costs more than antiperspirants and requires a greater time commitment as multiple treatments are recommended. Treatment would need to be revisited as the effect wears off.
Botulinum toxin injections, or Botox, is also being used in the treatment of hyperhidrosis. Multiple, small injections are given in the treatment area. The medication works to block the chemical which activates the sweat glands. Treatment lasts 4 to 6 months and can be repeated as needed. Botox is also showing promise in treating hyperhidrosis at the hairline and in the palms and soles of the feet.
Prescription medications are also available for the treatment of hyperhidrosis. These medications are not targeted to a specific area, and therefore affect the entire body’s cooling mechanism. Medication should be used with caution and under a physician’s direction as your body may not be able to cool itself when it really needs to.
Other forms of treatment include surgical removal of sweat glands through excision, laser surgery, curettage or liposuction. Sympathectomy is another form of surgery which may be performed in certain cases. Hand-held devices are also being used in the treatment of overactive sweat glands beneath the arms.
End the Sweat
If you suspect your teen may be struggling with the discomfort and embarrassment of hyperhidrosis, why not open up the conversation? Most kids aren’t even aware their problem has a name. Let your child know there is help available. As mentioned earlier, there are a number of treatment options on the market today and new methods on the horizon as well. If your son or daughter is not quite ready to tackle the problem, allow for time and space and offer support. That in itself can go a long way in easing anxiety. When living with hyperhidrosis, teens need to know they’re not alone, and that it’s okay to raise their hand if they’re tired of too much sweat.