For most of us, reaching the tail end of 19 was a welcomed relief.
Adolescence is a rough time; acne, raging hormones and awkward growth spurts are the norm, but less commonly associated with this transition period is excessive sweating.
- Also read: The Adolescent Storm
Fewer still are aware of the condition known as Hyperhidrosis, a disorder which causes sufferers to perspire at a severely excessive rate – up to 5 times more than usual - regardless of activity level or environment.
Hyperhidrosis affects various parts of the body, from the hands and feet, to the face and underarms.
Due to it being largely unknown to society and to those at the mercy of this medical ailment, it is often referred to as the silent handicap.
Understandably, sufferers isolate themselves due the embarrassment, not knowing the problem is treatable.
- Also read: Sweating it out
According to a US study conducted by the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS) – an NGO raising awareness around the condition – 20% of teenagers live with the disorder.
“Symptoms often start in one’s youth, which can already be an awkward time of growth and development. The added pressure of dealing with a ‘sweating problem’ around peers—in a classroom setting or otherwise—can be catastrophic to self-esteem, grades… children become anxious about attending school, socializing with friends…,” explains Executive Director of IHhS, Lisa J Pieretti.
Based on data released by IHhS experts, health advocate and creator of the innovative Kids Making Healthy Choices APP, Merilee Kern breaks down the myths and truths on Hyperhidrosis:
Myth: Sweaty people are out-of-shape, nervous or have hygiene issues
The average person has 2 to 4 million sweat glands. Sweat is essential to human survival and serves as the body’s coolant, protecting it from overheating.
Many athletes actually sweat more than other people because their bodies have become very efficient at keeping cool.
Meanwhile, people with hyperhidrosis (which causes overactive sweat glands) sweat excessively regardless of mood, weather, or activity level—often producing 4 or 5 times more sweat than is considered “normal”.
Myth: Kids with hyperhidrosis don’t suffer with school-specific activities
In a recent 2017 study, 63% of those with hyperhidrosis reported interference in the performance of tasks at school or work due to their condition.
Another study found that children and teens with hyperhidrosis can have difficulties manipulating writing utensils, keeping school work dry, gripping bicycle handlebars, and using a computer mouse.
- Also read: Bullying and suicide: What’s the connection?
Myth: To have hyperhidrosis, one must be dripping and saturated with sweat
Excess sweating can range from severe dripping to moderate moisture. Symptoms of hyperhidrosis can manifest differently and personally.
But, what is consistent is the impact on life depending on areas affected.
This can include damaged clothing, paperwork and shoes; obvious, embarrassing sweat marks on clothing; unappealing cold wet hands; discomfort due to dripping sweat or constant dampness; and skin slipperiness that gets in the way of sports, music, and day-to-day tasks.
Excess sweating of the armpits, hands, feet, face, chest, back, or groin can result in substantial impairment, including limitations at work, in social and physical activities, and during hobbies.
Emotional and psychological distress is also common.
Myth: Kids will grow out of hyperhidrosis
Contrary to popular belief, research shows that hyperhidrosis does not go away or decrease with age.
In fact, in one recent IHhS study, 88% of respondents said their excessive sweating had gotten worse or stayed the same over time.
This was consistent across all the different age groups, from youngsters to older adults.
- Also read: No sweat!
Myth: Hyperhidrosis is “just” a summer thing, or it’s at least worse during the hot summer months
Research from the IHhS also shows that profuse sweating is not simply dictated by the time of year. The majority of patients in one survey indicated that their sweating bothers them equally, no matter the season.
Myth: Kids and young adults are “resilient” and can deal with sweating a lot.
Medical journal citations substantiate that young people are known to be significantly impacted by emotional sequelae accompanying dermatologic disease and that psychiatric issues inherently accompany dermatologic disease in children and adolescents.
Studies further show that most patients with hyperhidrosis—characterized by excessive, spontaneous sweating beyond physiologic, thermal, or stress-reaction body requirements—describe their lives as “bad” or “very bad” due to the disorder.
Myth: Antiperspirants are for underarms only
Think outside the pits! You can glide, stick, spray, and roll-on nearly anywhere that sweating is a problem (think hands, feet, face, back, chest, and even groin.)
Be smart and talk to your dermatologist first before applying an antiperspirant to sensitive areas and test new products on small areas of skin first.
- Also read: How to speak to your son about puberty
Myth: Like caffeine, antiperspirants are best used in the morning
Pick a p.m. perk! Skip the bedtime espresso but do use your antiperspirant in the evening as well as in the morning.
Sweat production is at its lowest at night, giving the active ingredients in antiperspirants a better chance to get into your pores and block perspiration when the sun comes up and you really get moving.
Myth: Excessive sweating is less debilitating than other skin conditions people have to deal with
According to Dr. Pariser, hyperhidrosis has the greatest impact of any dermatological disease.
In fact, various investigations show the impact of hyperhidrosis on quality-of-life is equal or greater than that of in-patient psoriasis, severe acne, Darier disease, Hailey-Hailey disease, vitiligo, and chronic pruritus.
Kern urges sufferers to arm themselves with supportive information to help tackle the ailment.
To learn more about the Hyperhidrosis and treatment options, visit www.sweathelp.org.
If you'd like to share a personal experience relating to Hyperhidrosis, send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could publish your story. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and you'll receive Parent24 stories directly to your inbox.