Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Sweating (Marin IJ)

Summer is officially in effect. It’s time for Beer-bques, beach bumming, and picnicking in the rapidly browning grass. There are many things to love about summer, but one thing few of us love is summer sweat. Yes, for many, summer is the season of sweating. Now, we all know that perspiration plays an important bodily function. By coating our bodies with moisture, it promotes evaporative heat loss and keeps us from over-heating and shriveling like slugs in the sun. Still, most folks don’t think that sweating is cool. Sweat stains on t-shirts and salty dribbles down the forehead (not to mention clammy hands and soggy feet) are embarrassing and distracting. Or, perhaps you’re like me and sweat profusely whenever you visit the doctor’s office – in my case to the point of disintegrating the disposable paper sheet on the examining table; an odd response, indeed, for someone who works in the medical field.

Luckily, I have a sweat expert in the family. My wife Angela is a contributing writer for the International Hyperhidrosis Society (, the foremost provider of support and informational resources to the world’s community of excessive sweaters (that is people who sweat a lot, not those who excessively wear sweaters). Hyperhidrosis is an actual medical condition characterized by excessive sweating above and beyond what is needed to keep the body cool. Those with hyperhidrosis may sweat four or five times more than normal - regardless of external conditions - and their sweating is so extreme that it interferes with daily life. Now, someone with that level of lather should probably seek professional help, but for the rest of us who just want to curtail the average summer slather, here, adapted from the work of my in-home sweat consultant, are some tips.

  • First of all, remember that sweat plays a critical role in keeping you cool in hot temperatures. The key to keeping your body’s air conditioning working properly is hydration. Drink early, drink often, and drink again. Limiting fluid intake is most definitely not a healthy approach to sweat suppression. You can help your natural cooling system by using a vaporizer or atomizer to spray a light mist of water under your arms. As the water evaporates your body will naturally cool.

  • Dress for summer sweat-ccess. Wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing. Choose natural, breathable fabrics, such as cotton, or hi-tech fabrics designed to “wick” moisture away from your skin.

  • Sun-damaged or burned skin is not as effective at dissipating body heat and can have lasting consequences. Protect your skin and stay cooler by avoiding the peak sun hours. Sunscreen is a hot topic right now, and you should know that there is quite a bit of misleading advertising out there and not all sunscreens are created equal. New FDA regulations have been issued, but companies have at least one year to comply with these sensible new standards. Nonetheless, you should stay sunburn safe if you stick to sunscreens that are 1) SPF 15 to SPF 50, 2) have both UVA and UVB protection and 3) make sure to re-apply frequently.

  • If you sweat profusely from your forehead and/or face, consider wearing a wide-brimmed or long-billed hat. As with your clothing, your hat should be lightweight and light-colored. Coolibar hats, among others, have earned a “seal of recommendation” from The Skin Cancer Foundation.

  • When it’s hot outside and especially during summer exercise sessions, temperatures inside shoes and socks can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose lightweight, breathable or ventilated shoes or sandals and use sweat absorbing inserts (such as Summer Soles). When wearing socks, choose pairs that wick moisture away from your feet such as those designed for athletes and hikers. Absorbent foot powders and antiperspirants can also be used on feet to minimize sweating and moisture buildup.

  • Bust armpit wet marks by changing your antiperspirant routine. Choose a soft-solid formula and apply antiperspirant to underarms once in the morning and again prior to bedtime. Application twice daily—and especially before bedtime—has been shown to be more effective. Gently massaging the antiperspirant into the skin may be useful. You can consider using a stronger over-the-counter antiperspirant such as Certain Dri or Secret Clinical Strength (active ingredients; aluminum chloride and aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex). To avoid irritation, only apply antiperspirant to completely dry skin. If you suffer from an annoyingly sweaty face, consider applying an antiperspirant along your hairline. Follow the application tips mentioned above, but test the product on a tiny area of skin first to make sure that it won’t cause irritation.

Wow, thanks honey, that’s a lot of good perspiration inspiration. Before we wick away this topic, however, I should note that there are quite a few serious medical conditions that are associated with sweating. These include, and are not limited to – infection, heart disease, adverse medication effects or overdose, thyroid or endocrine disease, and certain types of tumors. New patterns of sweat, or sweat associated with other concerning symptoms (like the feeling of a rhino stomping on your chest) should trigger you to seek medical evaluation.

And finally, to reiterate, if you think you suffer from excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) or your sweat is not adequately controlled by over the counter products, you should talk to a dermatologist about other treatment options. These include: prescription antiperspirants, iontophoresis (machines like Fisher Galvanic and Drionic) and Botox injections. Dr. John Maddox, chief of dermatology at San Rafael Kaiser, told me that the time to seek help for sweating is when it “becomes such an everyday problem that it affects life and work – such as not being able to type because one’s hands slip off the keyboard.” I suppose, for me that means I shouldn’t ever pursue a career as a professional patient. As for those of us who find themselves sweating more in the summer... “Regular sweat in the summer time?” says Dr. Maddox, “Don’t sweat it!”