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Dr Phil: Sweating (video)

Related articles: Antiperspirants and breast cancer; Night sweats; Pheromones; Sweating; Sweaty armpits; Sweaty hands; Sweaty feet; Doc Spot - Night sweats; Dr Phil - Body odour

Hello there, I’m Dr Phil. Today we are going to be talking about sweating and smelling – lovely. Notice I haven’t used the term body odour, because that is quite a pejorative term and to be fair all of us smell. You go into anyone’s bedroom after they have slept with the windows closed and it whiffs a bit.

There has to be an evolutionary reason for this and I suspect it is so that we mate with the same species. The female emperor moth puts out a pheromone that can be picked up by its partner 6.8 miles away. Likewise, a lot of partners, if you ask them off the record, say that they like the smell of each other. People often say ”well, I’m a legs man”, “I’m an eyes man”, “I like personality”, ”I like a sense of humour”, ‘I like a tight bottom” – that’s me personally – but often it is the smell. You will often find partners smelling the top of each other’s heads because they get off on the pheromones. So don’t be ashamed of smelling, we all smell, it’s there for a reason.

Some people seem to smell slightly more than others and often it is down to sweating. Not the sweating itself, because sweat itself doesn’t smell at all. It is the colonization of that sweat by bacteria that causes the smell. We have sweat glands under our arms, around our private parts and on the soles of our feet. There are two types; the apocrine glands that produce a milky fluid – they often hit in at puberty and they get colonized by bacteria, because the smell of the pheromones is a real bacterial feast. And you have eccrine glands on the soles of your feet and other areas too.

We produce about 3 litres of sweat every 24 hours to control our body temperature (about 2.1 ml per minute that is). It is that colonization by bacteria that causes the smell. Sometimes it isn’t particularly offensive, sometimes it smells more when you’ve been eating onions or curries or certain foods, which can make your sweat smell more.

 So what should you do about it? Well, if you don’t like the smell or your partner is just raising their eyebrows, then washing. Sounds like a fairly patronizing thing to say, but generally after you have sweated a lot it is worth getting in the shower fairly quickly and washing those areas. And also drying carefully afterwards, because the bacteria like moist areas. So you can wash yourself, but if you leave it moist, the bacteria can have a little feast there, so dab yourself dry. In the old days we used to use talcum powder; not so popular these days. Wear light pants, I mean light fitting (they could be light coloured as well!), cotton rather than synthetic, nothing too tight. Don’t wear woolly socks in the summer, fairly obvious stuff, and change your socks everyday.

 Despite that, some people seem to sweat or smell excessively. The excessive sweating can occasionally be a marker for another disease, such as thyroid disease. So if you find yourself really sweating excessively, and it’s quite a new thing, or you’re sweating at night, go to your GP and get that checked out. If it’s just a problem of excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), there are certain really strong antiperspirants, such as aluminium chloride that can help, and just occasionally botox or a surgical intervention can help improve things. But that is pretty much end of the line stuff. Most people manage without.  

 If you want more information on sweating, go to the sweating section on this site. Or if you want more information on Dr Phil Hammond go to my website, Have a nice day!

Written by: Dr Phil Hammond
Edited by: Dr Phil Hammond
Last updated: Friday, October 20th 2017

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Comments on this article

Posted by Betty on 29/10/2015 at 11:09

I sweat so much, I cause peoples sinus to act up. Its so emberacing. Please help. I cant work I stink

Posted by Optional on 02/09/2015 at 12:14

My neighbor sweat very much to the extent that her clothes are very wet and so is her hair, as if she took a shower. She is allergic to gluten. Can you help?

Posted by natasha on 01/04/2015 at 08:44

Hello there.. I am someone who has faced sweating issues so bad to the point of not only seeing the wetness under the arms and between the legs and the slight smell but as well as dealing with boils both under myy arms and inbetween my legs so bad on several ocations I've had to have them lanced. I am willing to say after several more than enough dr visits that it is almost impossible to get rid of this problem but i am her to let you know I've learned some things that have helped so much its changed my life. Some causes of sweat is from the wieght you carry and the more weight you have to move the more your body is working and therfore the more you sweat. on the other hand losing weight is hard for a lot of people so besides this factor of helping your issues there's more you can do so don't give up! First off its important to take a shower before and after activities which make you sweat..the other things that i do are the fallowing; special antibacterial soap that drs use is a useful tool..its a small bottle of pink soap that is at a higher price but its worth cleans most all bacteria from the skin. After a shower dry thourly.. i apply doves deoderant in all areas i sweat..then powder with baby powder..this helps the sweat the smell and to help you stay dry. Another factor that is helpfull but I do not always fallow has to deal with shaving. Our culture has taught us its discusting to have hair on our body..but its there for a reason. hair on the body are likee shields to the skin like a coat we wear in a rain not only protects your skin frim dirt and bacteria it also holds the sweat. I know its not fun but I've learned not shaving all the time helps with sweat stains and skin problems. I hope this was helpfull because I know what it like to struggle and i hope this will help you like it has me . Donnt give up and nevet forget to just be is better than you think sometimes. people have embarasing things..human nature annd maturity need to meet on a level for once :)

Posted by lisa on 06/03/2015 at 10:13

Pls i want to know the best anti perspirant for a sweaty underarm that is harmless.

Posted by Buhle on 22/07/2014 at 07:40

Hey there,I suffer from axcessive sweat underarms it doesn't metter what time of the day or seasons. It can be freezing but I'm pespiring under arms therz no offensive smell or itch. It doesn't meter how light my cloths are. I'm a nursing student and this stresses me I work with community and I feel embarrassed all the time when they look at me drooling. I've tried antipespirants but still its not working for me. This is realy killing me please help me...

Posted by jack on 06/10/2013 at 05:22

Still havernt worked

Posted by diane myers on 23/08/2013 at 11:53

I constantly sweat around my face constantly and hair even if its raining i am getting to that stage where I wont go out as I sweat all the time, I have been tested for over active thyroid but came back clear, this is ruining my life please can you help me

Posted by Optional on 28/10/2011 at 11:43

I suffered with excessive crotch sweating for decades and finally figured out it has a name: Hexsel's Hyperhidrosis. I finally made something that has lelped me and am now selling them online. It literally wraps around the crotch of ones briefs, attaches to itself and is washable hundreds of times. I call them coolwrapps. Once they become drenched, it takes seconds to change out to a clean, dry, coolwrapp. The extra P stands for perspiration. I make each one myself and they are very comfortable. The Wrapps remove the moisture and odor and you start our all dry, again. No more damp elastic cutting into your inner thigh, causing huge painfurl pimples. The coolwrapps are amazing.

Posted by Optional on 03/06/2011 at 03:07

Hi, I sweat between my legs, from my crotch area, enough that it stains my clothes and looks like I have wet my pants. It's extremely embarrassing. My doctor gave me a solution to apply to that area but it doesn't always work. I have been going to the acupunturist but that's not helping me. Any ideas?

Posted by Optional on 09/02/2011 at 01:30

My ampit is always wet

Posted by Dianne on 12/01/2011 at 03:43

My problem is excessive head sweating. its related to weight and age and medicine. Any ideas would be appreiated.

Posted by Optional on 10/08/2010 at 04:08

i expect to find solutions and not known analysis of the the phenomena it self!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Optional on 31/07/2010 at 01:29

Thany 4 your help

Posted by mary on 30/07/2010 at 01:27

i have aqustion,when i was be chaild,it was cut space btween vaginal and annal,i was operation 2008,but i am maried around 10 month,at the moment i have a pain in annal,the operation is cuting and is opening,can i operation for second time?please what is the treatment for me? thank you

Posted by Optional on 30/07/2010 at 10:14

Hi I had some tummy bug which started on the 21st july i was sick with extreme tummy pains for the whole day and night with very high temp. next day i was ok but very tired. ever since then i have had extreme pain when i either pass wind or poo. Very extreme pain. and the other day i tried to have sex with my husband and i couldnt because it was extremely painful, same sort of pain as i have when passing wind or poo!! Im not sure if i need to go to docs or just let itself sort itsfelf out

Posted by Optional on 29/07/2010 at 06:03

I have multiple, embarrassing health problems which have caused me immeasurable distress. I have been badly hurt by a boyfriend in the past which has not helped and have been told that I have body dysmorphia. However, if I mention some of these, I would say this is an objective analysis. I feel very distressed to even write this down, but it is a big step for me. I have a chronic and profuse vaginal discharge which makes me very self conscious and scared of intimacy. I also have painful leakage around my back passage and often have to use vaseline to stop the discomnfort of this. On top of this I have non-existent breasts and a problem with hirturism although the hair on my head is far too thin. I also have resurrent vaginal cysts that have not responded to antibiotic treatment. I'm very sore and scared to show my body to anyone. I can't confide in anyone and the pain is unbearable. I have seen doctors before and have been told that I am fine, but it doesn't feel that way. I have tried to make positive steps to improve my self image, such as beauty treatments and trying to focus on my good parts. Please help me. Thanks.

Posted by dad on 27/07/2010 at 05:32

my 3 year old daughter sweats a lot when sleeping .is this normal as im concerned about it.

Posted by prabhat on 21/07/2010 at 04:53

i have been suffering excessive sweating.i didnot take drink.what is ur suggestion and treatment....