What Are Some Good Ways to Deal With Excessive Sweating?
Let’s start with some empathy and a few great products to help
by Leanne Delap
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My oldest grandson is 18, works hard, plays (soccer) hard, you would be proud of him. He sweats profusely and smells like it. Mom gets peeved as he takes three showers every day and always uses fresh towels. Fresh clothes follow. A column addressing this issue would likely sit well with lots of Moms. And with my grandson as well. I don’t think he knows which way to turn to solve this issue. Help!! —a Grampa (in the GTA)
Well, if this isn’t the most touching letter I have received in a long time! A grandfather worried about his grandson’s feelings will send me straight into investigation mode every time. Grampa, this does sound stressful for your grandson, and, yes, his mom.
We all smell. That’s just all there is to it. I think it’s a good time to get earnest here: In this revolutionary moment of tackling social justice issues, we are all trying to learn to accept and celebrate differences in each other, in terms of race, religion, orientation, gender constructs, economic classes. We are also vying to reduce stigmas around mental illness, differences in abilities, appearance, size and shape, and all the other things that have made people feel “less than” anyone else. People with excessive sweating suffer a great deal. No one should feel bad about themselves for smelling bad when they can’t control that. Let’s start with some empathy.
Sweating is a natural part of puberty, as our endocrine systems kick into gear. Though for those who are keen on differentiating our gland systems, it is actually the exocrine glands that facilitate sweating, and it is the autonomic nervous system that triggers sweating, to regulate body temperature. Clichés are clichés for a reason: If I suggest to you the words “high-school boys locker room,” I guarantee everyone reading will conjure scent memories of ripe and stale (even if the closest you have ever come to one is in the hallways outside the gym). That shows how universal perspiration is, especially for teen boys! Moms everywhere know laundry picks up furiously in the teen years (which is why we teach kids to do their own as early as possible, but that’s another column).
All that said, your grandson’s excessive sweating may be a very real (and treatable) medical problem: Please encourage him to see his doctor first and foremost for a proper medical opinion. The good news is that whatever is going on, there are some solid strategies and tips so we can all take some practical advice away with us.
The medical condition that causes excessive sweating (and associated smell) is called hyperhidrosis. There is primary hyperhidrosis, which affects about 1 per cent of the population and tends to start in childhood or at puberty. There is also a more common (though equally traumatizing) condition known as secondary hyperhidrosis, which can be caused later in life by an array of issues, from menopause to hyperthyroidism, some malignant diseases, some medications as well as obesity.
Make no mistake, excessive sweating can be very traumatic, says Dr. Lisa Kellett, prominent Toronto dermatologist and founder of DLK on Avenue. “It is debilitating, it really affects your lifestyle and happiness when you have hyperhidrosis.” You may have heard that Botox is an option for the condition. “These people are pretty desperate,” she says. “They have tried all the over-the-counter medications and solutions.”
Botox works, she says, by nearly completely eliminating sweating (by about 85 to 90 per cent). The procedure, in which Botox is applied via needles (to underarms, hands and feet, usually, but can be used almost anywhere there is an issue) has been an “off label” use of the neurotoxin, made famous for its smoothing effect on facial wrinkles. “Botox was originally a pediatric drug,” she says, “used for strabismus [lazy eye] and cerebral palsy.” It has been in use for hyperhidrosis for about 15 years, she says, and has become popular in the past eight to 10 years.
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