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Excessive Sweating - Hyperhidrosis and Excessive Sweating Control for Teens

Symptoms

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Updated January 20, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Sweating can sometimes seem annoying, but it is important to remember that it is through sweating that the body is able to cool itself when it gets too hot.

Without the ability to sweat, a medical condition called anhidrosis, the body can overheat and even develop heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.

Sweating

Sweat is produced by eccrine and apocrine glands in the skin. Eccrine sweat glands are found over most of the body and produce sweat without any odor. On the other hand, apocrine sweat glands are not as widespread, and are typically just found in the axillae (underarms) and anogenital area (groin).

Unlike the odorless sweat that is produced by eccrine glands, apocrine glands produce sweat that, once it has contact with bacteria, has a distinct body odor.

Children, especially teens, normally sweat when:

  • it is hot
  • eating spicy foods
  • exercising
  • they are angry, anxious, or nervous, etc.
  • they have a fever

Excessive Sweating Causes

There are a number of medical conditions that can cause excessive sweating, including:

  • hyperthyroidism
  • diabetes mellitus
  • cancer
  • infections
  • heart failure
  • medication side effects
  • drug withdrawal

Most teens with excessive sweating and no other symptoms will have primary focal hyperhidrosis though, in which the excessive sweating is limited to just one or more areas of their bodies, it is bilateral and symmetric (for example, both hands or both armpits), and stops while they are sleeping. Unlike the generalized excessive sweating that someone with hyperthyroidism might have, a teen with primary focal hyperhidrosis will probably just have sweaty palms, sweaty feet, sweaty armpits and/or excessive facial sweating.

This type of excessive sweating is common, affecting about 3 percent of people, and many experts think that it usually starts by teen years. It is also thought to usually be genetic, but the underlying cause is unknown. It is known that people with primary focal hyperhidrosis have a normal number of sweat glands and they work normally, but they just produce more sweat for some reason.

Excessive Sweating Control

Since just about everyone sweats, how do you know when or if your teen has a problem with excessive sweating? One easy way is to simply compare his sweating to other teens in similar situations. For example, your teen will likely be sweating while playing volleyball, but it shouldn't be so severe that sweaty palms interfere with her holding the ball.

If a teen's excessive sweating frequently interferes with his daily activities, has become barely tolerable, or especially if it is intolerable and always interferes with his daily activities, then he should seek help.

Treatments that can help control excessive sweating can include:

  • a regular over-the-counter antiperspirant, but apply it in the evening, use it both in the morning and the evening for best results
  • newer over-the-counter antiperspirant, such as Secret Clinical Strength (Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex) or Hydrosal Professional (Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate 15%)
  • an over-the-counter antiperspirant, such as Certain Dri, with Aluminum Chloride 12%
  • a prescription strength antiperspirant, such as DrySol, with Aluminum Chloride 20%, or Xerac AC, with Aluminum Chloride 6.25%
  • anticholinergic medications, although because of their side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation, and drowsiness, etc., they are more helpful for generalized hyperhidrosis, and not teens who just have sweaty palms or excessive armpit sweating

Other treatments for excessive sweating that are more commonly used in adults can include local sweat gland excision or endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, surgical treatments for excessive sweating, iontophoresis, in which low-level electrical current is applied to the skin's surface to reduce sweat production, and botox injections. Although the effect is only temporarily, botox works to block a neurotransmitter that stimulates sweat glands, leading to a decrease in sweat production for 6 to 7 months.

What You Need To Know About Excessive Sweating

Other things to know about hyperhidrosis and excessive sweating control:

  • follow the directions closely when using antiperspirants with Aluminum Chloride, as they can be very irritating to your teen's skin. To decrease any chances of irritation, apply the antiperspirant to dry skin at night, and then wash it off 6 to 8 hours later. Remember that you will only need to use it every 1 to 3 weeks once the excessive sweating is under good control.
  • don't apply an antiperspirant right after shaving
  • use a cool blow drier (don't use a warm or hot setting) to help dry your skin if necessary before applying an antiperspirant
  • applying hydrocortisone cream or topical baking soda after you wash away the antiperspirant may help to decrease the chances of skin irritation.
  • antiperspirants are sometimes used on sweaty palms and sweaty feet, but talk to your pediatrician first, because there is a risk for skin irritation
  • a dermatologist can help your further manage your teen's excessive sweating


Sources:

Habif: Clinical Dermatology, 5th ed.

Haider A. Focal hyperhidrosis: diagnosis and management. CMAJ - 4-JAN-2005; 172(1): 69-75

International Hyperhidrosis Society. Hyperhidrosis Treatments. Antiperspirants. Accessed July 2010.

Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed.

Lowe, Nicholas J. M.D. Botulinum toxin type A in the treatment of primary axillary hyperhidrosis: A 52-week multicenter double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of efficacy and safety. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology - Volume 56, Issue 4 (April 2007).

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