Why do we sweat? One important reason is to regulate body temperature. If we didn’t have sweat glands in the skin all over our bodies, we’d need to stick out our tongues and pant like dogs to cool off in hot weather. Although that may be the function of sweating, plenty of people can tell you that’s not all there is to it. They’re the ones who perspire far more than is strictly necessary for cooling -purposes. Almost all of us sweat when we are anxious as well.

Nearly 3 percent of adults sweat too much, a condition known as hyperhidrosis. Their armpits perspire and soak their shirt or blouse. Their hands sweat and make their handshakes slippery, or their feet sweat, contributing to the growth of odor-forming bacteria and fungi. Some people find perspiration dripping from their face even when they are not exerting themselves. It appears that their nervous system goes into overdrive, telling the eccrine glands in the skin that produce sweat to make more in response to emotion.

Excessive perspiration can complicate life, but a surprising number of people don’t discuss this issue with their doctor. That is a shame, because there are some effective treatments.

“I have a problem with underarm perspiration. As a funeral director, I must wear a suit and tie, and in warm weather my coat gets soaked within 30 minutes. Some of my jackets have been ruined with perspiration stains, and I am distressed about my image.”

It’s also important to discuss this issue with a physician so he or she can rule out any potentially serious medical conditions that might be causing excessive sweating. Infections (including tuberculosis and HIV), certain cancers, panic attacks, an overactive thyroid gland, menopause, Parkinson’s disease, and a number of other conditions could be responsible. There are also some medications that can trigger embarrassing perspiration. In most cases, though, damp armpits or sweaty feet are simply a consequence of sweat glands being hypersensitive to the cues that normally stimulate perspiration.

Excessive sweating, whether of the underarms, hands, or feet, can cause people a lot of anxiety and disruption in their lives. If you have this problem, make sure you tell your doctor about it and ask for help with it. There are treatments available, so you don’t need to go on suffering.

  • Begin with an over-the-counter antiperspirant such as Certain Dri. Apply it before bedtime so it has longer to work and won’t ruin your clothes.
  • If you want to avoid aluminum, experiment with milk of magnesia. It can be applied daily to armpits, hands, or feet, since it dries clear.
  • Try white vinegar, straight or diluted, on armpits to control sweating and odor.
  • Ask your doctor about a prescription for Drysol. Apply only to dry skin at bedtime and wash it off in the morning.
  • If you don’t get satisfactory results from aluminum chloride hexahydrate products, consider Botox injections every 6 to 8 months.
  • Treat your sweaty hands or feet with electric current by using a prescription Drionic device.
  • Soak your sweaty feet in a strong tea solution. Tannic acid is astringent and helps shut down sweat glands.
  • Surgery (ETS) offers a permanent solution to hyperhidrosis, but it is also the riskiest and most expensive treatment.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Anne

    I’d like to know why I sweat when I’m chilled. It’s April, and still chilly outside so my house is cold in the morning before the heat gets going. I usually start with a couple of layers or put on a sweatshirt. Without fail, I’ll still be feeling a little chilly and I’ll also be perspiring from my armpits! It’s usually only in the morning, and otherwise I don’t sweat much, even in warm weather. I don’t use an antiperspirant most of the time, and I don’t smell bad. I do, however, shower daily. What is causing this. Mostly, it’s just annoying. Does coffee have an effect?

  2. DD Guttman

    My son has been excessively sweating since reaching early puberty.
    What can be done ? He is now a sophomore in college.
    Please help :)
    Thank you so much

    Ps. The endocrinologist at tx children’s suppose boy the leading specialist was NO help

  3. Ed Y

    So what do I do for bad body odor? I shower everyday. I am trying Tea Tree oil under my arm pits.
    My brother gets these heavy sweats at any time. At night he has to get up and change his PJs 2 to 3 times a night. Do you have any remedies for the both of us?

  4. DLH

    I’ve been bothered most of my life by perspiration but it first became really noticeable during my first year of high school (9th grade) when puberty set in. My mother purchased mitchum’s antiperspirant. All this did was slough off onto my clothes, turning the underarms of all my garments yellow and waxy. This substance would not come off with soaps, detergents or other agents such as vinegar, salt, sunshine.
    In the late 1960’s i had to take a drug called probanthine with dartol for intestinal problems. One of the side effects was that my perspiration quit being a problem, but my doctor felt that using this medication after the intestinal problem went away could cause other problems so I was once again dripping from my armpits.
    Shields worn under clothing only got so saturated that they caused chafing. They also allowed the sweat to show up beyond the edges of the plastic backed shields. I did learn to wear an item only once before laundering and never bought anything that needed dry cleaning. This went on for many more years until I moved to the Sacramento valley.
    Here the summer temperatures reach higher than I was used to in the San Francisco bay area where I was raised. Out of desperation, I started experimenting with baby powder, cornstarch, fuller’s earth… anything I could think of. Nothing worked. All the powders made a sticky mess on the clothing and caused chafing.
    Finally I tried rubbing alcohol. As soon as I was out of my daily shower, I splashed alcohol to my underarms. Then by extending my arms over my head, allowing air to get to the armpits, I was able to get a little drier from the evaporation of the alcohol. I also took a small bottle of alcohol with me to the office and would go into the restroom to re-apply during the work day.
    This method also took away some of the smell that I had endured for years. evidently the alcohol also killed some of the bacteria that starts to form as soon as perspiration reaches the skin’s surface.
    I still do not wear an item more than one wearing before it is washed. I wear clothing that is almost 100% cotton. Most garments of man-made fibers hold the perspiration close to the skin, not allowing much evaporation.
    I sincerely hope that anyone else with this problem will try using this alcohol method and spread the word if you are successful.

  5. L Georgevich

    I have an 8th grade student that has a very pungent body odor. She states she showers every day and washes her clothes after each wearing. I have talked with her about the use of Certain Dri, she states her father has the same problem. This is very difficult for a young girl, is there anything else she can try? Her family has limited financial resources and no health insurance so going to the doctor is out for her. Thanks for any other suggestions.

  6. Patsy G

    My problem is that I sweat profusely, but not visibly. There is a sort of mist (warm air/steam) coming off me. It is very noticeable whenever I am in a motor vehicle, especially if the weather is cold. In no time, the window on my side will be completely frosted up, while everybody else’s remain clear.
    Another embarrassing manifestation is that whenever I sit on non fabric surfaces, although I DO NOT HAVE ANY DISCHARGE OR ISSUE, I will leave a long moist impression of the space between my legs , when I rise. This soon evaporates, as it is, after all, only steam, but it has caused me no end of grief.
    Am I the only one?

  7. Star,C.M.A. (Moderator)

    TO:LVD-Sorry to hear no doctor has helped you. You might try going online (in your area) and see if there are any M.D.s that treat excessive sweating. You could also
    call around to other M.D.’s offices and ask if they treat this. Also, have you gone through the list in the above article?
    Good Luck! I’m sure there is an answer for you out there.

  8. smc

    I have the opposite problem…I don’t sweat or perspire or even “glow”…so I just tend to get overheated….what can be done about this? I have known several other women who have this problem.

  9. LDV

    I have tried to get help from doctors, but they shrug their shoulders and tell me there’s no help. (The last doctor was my endocrinologist.) What do you know that they don’t?
    I have had severe sweating since around 20 years old. “Severe” means flop sweat from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. Going to work in the morning raises my temperature enough to cause an episode that lasts for at least two hours. There I am, standing in front of class with large stains at my arms, crotch, and chest, with a hot, dripping face for hours. It makes a very bad impression on my students.
    Exercise is very difficult as the least intense action will trigger a very wet response; my face turns bright red, people stare and come up to me thinking I’m having an attack. The profuse dripping/bright red face doesn’t stop for at least 45 minutes after cooling down and stopping. I haven’t yet tried a sunscreen that can stand up to flop sweat. The worst is when it weeps from my facial/scalp pores and goes into my eyes — it really, really stings. I rarely exercise anymore because it is such a trial, and cannot be accomplished quickly.
    I have hypothyroid, depression, morbid obesity, and diabetes — all of which could benefit from exercise. I don’t believe they are contributing factors as the problem was very present well before my health problems developed.
    Is there any help for me?

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.