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Why We Sweat

Why We Sweat

Sweating is a form of thermoregulation, our body’s ability to maintain its core temperature. The hypothalamus, our body’s thermostat, is located in the brain, and regulates our body’s temperature automatically in response to factors inside and outside of the body.

 Humans have 4 million sweat glands distributed all over the body, of which there are 2 types:

Apocrine glands (25%)

·         Found where there is hair: scalp, armpits (highest concentration), around the nipples, genitals, and anus

·         Become active at puberty

·         Continuously secrete a concentrated fatty sweat

·         Skin bacteria break down the sweat fats, causing a strong odor (commonly known as body odor)

Eccrine glands (75%)

·         Sweat is comprised mostly of water (99%) but also contains salt

·         Are located over the entire body and are active from birth

·         Found in higher density on the soles of the feet, forehead, palms, and cheeks

·         Secretions are watery and odorless, and serve to cool the body in hot environments or during activity


·         Controls body temperature by regulating eccrine sweat output and blood flow to the skin

·         Responds not only to changes in core body temperature, but also to hormones, illness, physical activity, medication, and emotions

·         Balances heat production with heat loss, keeping the body at a temperature just right for optimal function

·         Balances body fluids and maintains salt concentrations

 Skin Anatomy

·         The middle layer of the skin, called the dermis, stores most of the body's water

·         When activated by the hypothalamus, sweat glands bring water and body salts to the surface of the skin as sweat

·         Once on the surface, the water evaporates, cooling the body

 More on Sweating


·         The body sweats so much that it depletes itself of fluids and salts, leaving nothing to sustain the evaporation process

·         When the sweating stops, the body’s temperature rises

Hot flashes:

·         During menopause and the years around it, the menstrual cycle becomes erratic, with large fluctuations in estrogen levels

·         This hormone fluctuation leads to a complex chain of events affecting the function of the hypothalamus

·         This triggers changes in the blood vessels that increase blood flow, leading to skin flushing, temperature changes, and sweating


·         Depending on what resource you use, ‘normal’ body temperature ranges from 97°F to 100.4°F, with the agreed upon average being 98.6°F

·         Normal body temperature varies by person, their age and activity, and the time of day

·         A fever is defined as a temperature higher than 100.4 or a body temperature higher than what is normal for that person

·         The hypothalamus responds to illness by releasing fever-producing chemicals that change the body’s temperature. This is believed to be the body’s way of fighting germs. Shivering is one way our body generates more heat

·         Once your body reaches the new temperature set by the hypothalamus, 102°F for example, you won't feel cold anymore. According to your hypothalamus, your temperature is where it should be

·         When your body begins to heal, sweating helps to rid the body of heat

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