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Sweating (Perspiration) FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:Sweat is odorless. True or False?

A:True. Sweat itself has no odor. Odor is the result of a combination of sweat and bacteria contained in a dark and moist environment, like an armpit or feet enclosed in footwear.

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Q:Sweat serves no purpose. True or False?

A:False. Perspiration serves at least two purposes:

1. Removing waste products such as urea and ammonia;
2. Cooling of the body temperature as sweat evaporates.

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Q:Deodorant and antiperspirant are one and the same. True or False?

A:False. Antiperspirant and deodorant are not one and the same. Antiperspirants feature a chemical barrier that helps to prevent excessive sweating under the armpits. Deodorant helps to combat body odor caused by sweating by masking it with fragrance. Antiperspirants and deodorants are commonly sold in combination as a single product to reduce sweating and dilute odor.

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Q:Antiperspirants and deodorants are just as effective when applied to an unwashed area. True or False?

A:False. Applying antiperspirants and deodorants to an unwashed skin does very little to control odor. It is always best to start with a blank hygienic slate (such as washing well with soap and drying the area completely) and then apply an antiperspirant/deodorant combination product to minimize the sweating and odor.

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Q:What is the medical term for body odor?

A:Bromhidrosis is the medical term for body odor.

Body odor can be defined as an unpleasant smell produced after perspiration. Keep in mind: It's not the sweat itself that smells bad. The odor is caused when bacteria come in contact with sweat.

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Q:What is hyperhidrosis?

A:Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive sweating.

Although it's not serious medically, hyperhidrosis can be an embarrassing condition that can interfere with life's basic activities. While many effective treatments have become available, most people never seek help for this condition.

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Q:What is a common complication of hyperhidrosis?

A:Athlete's foot is a common complication of hyperhidrosis.

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) stems from a fungal infection. A person is more likely to suffer with athlete's foot as a result of excessively sweaty feet because fungus thrives in moist conditions like enclosed footwear. Athlete's foot may be best prevented by keeping the feet clean and dry and avoiding prolonged exposure to moisture.

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Q:How many sweat glands do humans have?

A:Most humans have 2 to 4 million sweat glands!

Sweat glands are located in the middle layer of skin called the dermis, which is also made up of nerve endings, hair follicles, and blood vessels.Most humans have 2 to 4 million sweat glands! Sweat glands are located in the middle layer of skin called the dermis, which is also made up of nerve endings, hair follicles, and blood vessels.

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Q:Where are eccrine sweat glands found?

A:eccrine sweat glands are found in the chest, head, neck, groin, back, thighs, palms, face, feet, and armpits.

While there are two types of sweat glands, the majority of sweat glands on the body are eccrine sweat glands. Eccrine sweat glands are particularly numerous on the feet, palms, face, and armpits but are found throughout the body. Eccrine glands are largely responsible for regulating body temperature and they open precisely onto the skin's surface.

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Q:What stimulates apocrine glands?

A:Embarrassment, anger, and fear stimulate apocrine glands.

In addition to eccrine sweat glands, apocrine glands are the other type of sweat gland.

The apocrine glands are prevalent in hair follicles, such as the scalp, underarms, and genitals. These sweat glands become active after puberty and are not responsible for regulating body temperature.

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Q:Chemicals in sweat can fight many types of bacteria. True or False?

A:True. Sweat contains fatty acids and mineral matter as well as a potent anti-infective agent dubbed dermicidin. The first antimicrobial agent discovered that is produced by cells in the skin, dermicidin is active against many different types of bacteria, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, and the common fungus Candida albicans.

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Q:Sweating that is caused by ingesting food is called what?

A:Sweating that is caused by ingesting food is called gustatory sweating. Gustatory sweating refers to sweating on the forehead, face, scalp, and neck occurring soon after ingesting food. Some gustatory sweating is normal after eating hot, spicy foods. Otherwise, gustatory sweating is most commonly a result of damage to a nerve that supplies the parotid gland, the large salivary gland in the cheek. In this setting, referred to as Frey's syndrome, the sweating is usually on one side of the head. Gustatory sweating is also a rare complication of diabetes mellitus.

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