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Perspiration Problems: "...Stress usually brings with it stress sweat which tends to be particularly stinky, staining, and embarrassing.".

No matter where we are--at home, work, school, play, or elsewhere--stress sweat stinks. Stress is bad enough on its own. Unfortunately for most of us, however, stress usually brings with it stress sweat, which tends to be particularly stinky, staining, and embarrassing. Given that there are 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 sweat glands distributed all over our bodies, and that stressful situations seemingly are ubiquitous in modern life, trying to avoid stress sweat might seem like a futile endeavor. However, there are simple ways you can control it.

What makes stress sweat different from heat- and exercise-induced variety? The majority of the sweat glands in our skin are "eccrine." These are responsible for most of our heat- and exercise-related sweating and secrete an odorless, clear fluid (made mostly of water and salt) to help control temperature by promoting heat loss through evaporation. Eccrine glands are found in large numbers on the soles of the feet, palms, forehead, cheeks, and armpits.

Stress sweat, on the other hand, primarily comes from another type of gland--apocrine, which are found mostly in the armpits and genital region (but there are some on the scalp, too), and exist near dense pockets of hair follicles. They produce a thick fluid that is emptied into the hair follicle just before it opens onto the skin surface.

While apocrine sweat initially is odorless, it does not evaporate as quickly as eccrine sweat and can develop an odor when it combines with bacteria that normally inhabit the surface of our skin. The odor has that characteristic smell that we often call "body odor." While it may smell, stress/apocrine sweat actually does not produce that much wetness--at least not like the amount caused by eccrine sweat.

When the body is reacting to an emotion--such as anxiety, stress, or excitement--sweat is released from apocrine glands. Something interesting about stress sweat is that it is immediate, whereas heat- or exercise-related sweat can take longer to kick in.

Scientists are not sure why apocrine glands produce odor beyond the process described above, but there might be an evolutionary and protective reason behind it. Animals also tend to emit an odor when they are stressed. That odor acts as a signal to peers that something dangerous is going on and they should react accordingly. If this theory is true, it makes sense that stress sweat would be immediate and not delayed. Note that stressful situations also will increase eccrine sweating, but it is not as immediate or pungent.

While most of us recognize that stress sweat is a "thing," we usually just suffer through it. This is a shame because there are ways to help control stress sweat and doing so can, in turn, make life a whole lot less stressful:

* Big picture: manage your stress and learn how to control it to prevent or limit stress sweating in the first place. Think mindfulness, meditation, and life balance, and when you have figured that out, please let me know.

* Use an antiperspirant to prevent sweat-related wetness. Antiperspirants work on both types of sweat glands. Apply at night for best effectiveness. At bedtime, you typically are sweating the least, which gives antiperspirants' active ingredients time overnight to form the superficial plugs (that help limit sweating) before you start perspiring again in the morning.

If you apply antiperspirant when you already are sweating, your sweat will wash away the product before it can start to work--and, yes, you can use antiperspirants on other body areas besides your underarms. Just test it on a small spot first to make sure it does not cause irritation--especially on sensitive parts. As always, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about any concerns.

* No luck with the regular stuff? Try a stronger antiperspirant; some are formulated for those suffering from extreme, clinical sweating--a condition called hyperhidrosis.

* Also use a deodorant to fight stress sweat odor--or use a combination antiperspirant and deodorant for convenience and cost savings.

* Trim and groom your hair where apocrine sweat and odor is a problem. This will not limit the sweating, but it can help your antiperspirant and deodorant reach your skin more thoroughly and, therefore, do their jobs more effectively. Trimming hair also prevents sweat and oil from hanging around and cuts down on the surface areas on which bacteria and sweat can react (remember, it is that reaction that leads to body odor).

* There are other, more-sophisticated treatments to stop sweating and the odor linked to it, too. One such innovation is a medical device which studies show reduces body odor by destroying sweat glands and hair follicles via microwaves. You need to go to a doctor's office for the treatment, but the results are permanent and will stop sweating, odor, and hair growth in the treated area.


Angela Ballard is a registered nurse and health educator with the International Hyperhidrosis Society, Bucks County Pa.
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Title Annotation:MEDICINE & HEALTH
Author:Ballard, Angela
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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