why do we sweat

Why do We Sweat

From a light sweat due to walking on a pretty day, to a complete drenching while playing a sport, all humans sweat. Although the levels of sweat vary depending on environmental and personal circumstances, all humans share perspiration as a means to reduce body temperature. However, why do humans sweat, and how does this sweating regulate body temperature? These questions, and more, all can be answered with a quick dive into the anatomy of sweating. Not all excessive sweating is caused by a medical problem like hyperhidrosis!

What are Endothermic (Warm-blooded) Species?

In all humans, the body is constantly producing heat via a series of reactions. This heat is a result of both chemical reactions and physical actions inside the body. From heart tissues expanding and contracting, to intestinal organs absorbing nutrients, heat is almost always produced as a by-product of the body’s actions. Since the human body does not rely on outside environmental conditions to regulate temperature, humans are classified as endotherms (commonly known as warm-blooded. Whereas ectothermic (cold-blooded) species rely on heat via solar energy to maintain their body temperatures, endothermic species produce sufficient heat to warm themselves on their own.

How Endothermic (Warm-blooded) Species Regulate Temperature?

The body temperature regulation challenge specific to endotherms is to ensure that we do not overheat as a result from the heat provided by our natural chemical and physical reactions. The three primary ways humans expel this heat are dissipating heat through their breath, sending heat to the outer layers of the skin via blood flow, and producing sweat that evaporates from the skin. The first two methods happen constantly, but sweat is utilized when the body temperature rises slightly from its resting temperature. The normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, although a resting temperature between 97.7-99.2 degrees Fahrenheit is not uncommon.

The sweat glands produce liquid sweat, and the sweat travels from the glands to the surface of the skin. Ever wonder what that sweat is made of? Mostly water, and a few other things. When the sweat evaporates (because it is mostly water), the heat in the sweat leaves the body as well. For people who experience diaphoresis (excessive sweating with no known cause) or hyperhidrosis the process of sweating is not beneficial to the process of thermoregulation because it is so excessive. People usually get hyperhidrosis for a few reasons, it is either genetic, caused by disease, medications, or other factors that aren’t yet understood.

1. Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Amsterdam: Elsevier Pub. Co., 2014. Retrieved
2. Nordqvist, C. (2017, December 21). Hyperhidrosis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Retrieved May 14, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182130.php
3. Kamudoni, P., Mueller, B., Halford, J., Schouveller, A., Stacey, B., & Salek, M. (2017, June 8). The impact of hyperhidrosis on patients’ daily life and quality of life: A qualitative investigation. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://hqlo.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12955-017-0693-x

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