An Expert Answers the Most Basic Questions About Sweat

Tom Bailey, Faith Pizzey

If you’re hot and sticky even before your daily commute, you might ask why you sweat so much.

Sweating is usually the body’s way of stopping you overheating. But for some people, sweating becomes a problem. Either they sweat for no obvious reason or (as Prince Andrew admitted last year) not at all.

So why do some people sweat more than others? And what can you do about excess sweating?

Remind me again, why do we sweat?

Humans need to regulate their internal body temperature to keep it constant, even when the environmental temperature rises, perhaps on a hot day, sitting in a hot-tub or running for the bus.

That’s because a rise in internal body temperature can lead to our organs overheating, fatigue, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Preventing severe heat gain requires a careful balance between the heat our body produces (from everyday metabolism), heat from the environment and the heat our body loses.

Our bodies are well-designed for this. We have special temperature sensors in our skin and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) that send signals to the body’s thermostat in the brain to alert it to increases in body temperature.

The body’s largest organ, the skin, is also designed to remove heat from the body. The most noticeable way is losing heat via evaporating sweat.

How does sweating cool us down?

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