No Sweat: Keep your cool.
by Natalia M. Thompson
You know the feeling: you’re about to take an important test and your hands are dripping enough to fill a swimming pool. Or you play basketball so hard that you’re covered with rivers of sweat. Everybody sweats. But why?
The Science of Sweat
Sweat, also called perspiration, is your body’s way of regulating your body heat. When your body is too hot, it produces sweat to cool itself. Your brain receives signals from heat receptors in your skin that your body is too warm. Then your brain sends a message to your body’s sweat glands to release sweat. That moisture on your skin evaporates, or changes from a liquid to a gas, which cools your body. You also sweat when you feel cool, but you may not notice because the small amount of sweat you produce evaporates almost as soon as it forms. Believe it or not, you’re always sweating.
Sweat glands, which produce sweat, are long, coiled, hollow tubes of cells located in your second layer of skin, the dermis. These glands produce sweat and release it through the pores in your skin. If you’ve ever licked your skin, you know it tastes salty. That’s because the solids that sweat leaves behind include sodium (salt) and potassium.
You have 2.6 million sweat glands in your body—in an extreme situation they can produce up to a liter of sweat in one hour (that’s enough to fill a large soda bottle)! The palms of your hands, soles of your feet, and forehead have the most sweat glands. That’s why your arms might feel completely dry even when your hands are slippery. In addition to heat, nervous tension (how you feel during test time!) or anticipation (your best friend is on her way for a sleepover) can activate sweat glands—this is your body’s way to prepare for “fight or flight,” in case it has to get really active.
Everyone knows that sweating can be smelly. Actually, sweat itself is odorless; it doesn’t create a smell until it combines with bacteria on your skin. Some people shower each day to eliminate odor and prevent pores from clogging. People also use deodorants or antiperspirants. Deodorants cover the smell, but they don’t stop you from sweating. Antiperspirants block the pores in your armpits so you don’t sweat as much. Some people avoid using antiperspirants because some studies have found that the aluminum in them can lead to unhealthy buildups of aluminum in your body.
Don’t Sweat It
Sweating is good for your body. But if you’re soaked after a hot day or after exercising really hard, you could be losing so much water through your skin that you get dehydrated. Dehydration is what happens when your body doesn’t have the amount of liquids it needs. If you’re sweating a lot, drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. If you’re really worried about whether you’re sweating too much, talk to a doctor about your concerns.
Remember, sweat is one of the many amazing ways your body takes care of itself. If we didn’t sweat, our bodies could overheat and then we’d find ourselves in some really sticky situations, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Consider this: Dogs have to pant to regulate their body heat. So, would you rather sweat or pant? I’d prefer sweating, thank you very much!
Natalia Thompson, 15, is a regular contributor to New Moon. She’s been on New Moon’s Computer Advisory Board (CAB) since 2004 and enjoys swimming, yoga, and running—she just completed her first triathlon. In her spare time, she interns for a statewide, grassroots senate campaign in Wisconsin.
© 2008 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.
Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013