Parents have been soaking up the information I’ve given them regarding why their older children and teens sweat so much.
Let me see if I can dry up their concerns and provide some information on this topic.
Sweating is actually a great way for the body to maintain its normal temperature; when you sweat, you remove moisture from your body, and as it evaporates off your skin, you cool down.
The biggest danger from sweating can occur when it is hot outside, or when you are exercising and your body is heating up. In these instances, you can lose too much water from your body through perspiration, resulting in dehydration. Getting adequate fluid, such as water, into your body when you do sweat is critical.
Sweating also occurs when you are nervous. This tends to become a problem during puberty, which is a stressful time for any adolescent. When your teen’s 3 million sweat glands — that’s right, 3 million — become more active (particularly in places like the armpits), the sweat that is produced mixes with bacteria, generating chemicals that give sweat its not-so-pleasant odor.
So what do you do about it?
If your teen’s sweat smells bad, having them shower daily and use a deodorant with an antiperspirant is the best way to go. The deodorant masks the odor, and the antiperspirant reduces the amount of sweat produced in the armpit area.
Clothes should be made of natural fibers like cotton and linen, especially in the summer heat. Use of underarm or dress shields can help prevent underarm stains and, if necessary, a teen might keep an extra shirt in his or her locker at school.
It’s also a good idea to talk openly with your teen about what might be causing him or her stress so those factors can be addressed to possibly reduce the amount of sweat being produced.
If, despite these measures, the sweating persists, have your teen talk to their doctor, because prescription-strength antiperspirants and other treatments are available to help with the sweating.
Hopefully you and your teen will find that the problem of perspiration is no sweat at all.
Dr. Lewis First is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.