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Why do we sweat?

Sweating is a ‘big problem’ for us. Isn’t it?  Wet shirts, rashes on our skin, itching, bad odour from our bodies and so on, there are lots of problems associated with sweating.

We often watch many advertisements on TV or in magazines or in newspapers, for anti-sweating powder, soap, anti-itching lotion, deodorants, etc. This indicates that summer is coming, and sweating will begin soon. Children will return home from playgrounds with wet shirts and rashes. We will start to bathe 3-4 times in a day.

But you know that sweating is a very normal and natural phenomenon. There is nothing unusual with this. In fact, the process of sweating starts from the time of birth. But the question is why do we sweat? Is sweating good or bad for us? When do we sweat? There are many queries regarding sweating. Let’s try to find out the answers of those queries.


First, let’s start with: when do we sweat? Normally, we sweat in hot weathers. We know this very well and also, we experience this in every summer. Of course there are also many other situations in which we sweat.   For example, we also sweat when we are nervous, stressed, or panicked.  Puberty, which is roughly between 12 to 16 years of age, is a stage of life when children sweat a lot. In reality, sweating is a normal physiological process to keep our body cool and to regulate our body temperature. And it is also true that sweating is good for health. Sweating is actually important for maintaining our bodily functions properly and to fight infections.

This process of sweating prevents us from overheating in hot environments or when we are doing some sort of physical exercise.

Do you know what kind of substance is sweat? Sweat is a kind of watery fluid. It contains mainly protein, fatty acids, salt etc.

Now, let’s discuss why do we sweat? There are two types of sweat glands present in our body. And sweat is produced from these sweat glands. We have nearly 5 million sweat glands all over the body. Actually, sweat glands are everywhere in our body, except few places like lips. But the phenomenon of sweating is not under our control. Our sweat glands are controlled by our automatic nervous system.

We have already mentioned that there are two types of sweat glands, namely Apocrine glands and Eccrine glands. Apocrine glands are mainly found in the armpit, groin, eyelids, and ears, and Eccrine glands are found all over the body. In our palms and feet Eccrine glands are more concentrated.

Apocrine glands become active during the period of puberty, when children are between the ages of 10 to 16 years. It is already mentioned that these glands are found mainly in armpits, eyelid, ears, and groin. Sweat, secreted from apocrine gland is like an oily fluid and this oily fluid contains proteins, fatty acids etc. The sweat produced by these glands has a typical smell. Do you know the reason behind this smell? The reason behind this smell is that the sweat of these glands is nutritious for bacteria, present in the skin and these skin bacteria convert the sweat produced by Apocrine glands into some chemicals. These chemicals are the culprit, which creates the body odour.  Apocrine glands are triggered at the time of any excitement, anxiety, stress or nervousness. You have probably noticed that, when you are facing any hard examination or standing onstage for a performance then you start sweating. Why does this happen? This happens because of your emotional state, you are either feeling nervous or you are under stress. In this emotional condition, your Apocrine glands start functioning.

Perhaps, you have noticed a yellowish stain in armpit area of your shirt. This seems disgusting, doesn’t it? Actually this yellowish stain is due to the sweat from the apocrine gland. There is another thing, that is, the Earwax inside our ears, is also produced by Apocrine glands.

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Another type of sweat glands is the Eccrine glands. These glands are found in all over the body, just under the skin and these are the major sweat glands of human body. These eccrine glands start functioning soon after birth. Normally Eccrine glands become active when your body temperature rises due to physical activities like exercise, or playing football or due to temperature of the environment. Sweat secreted from Eccrine glands is clear and odourless and it is mainly water but also contains salt. Eccrine glands effectively regulate the body temperature, and sweating from eccrine glands keeps our body cool.

Sweating is an automatic cooling system of the human body. But do you know how does sweat make us cool? You can do an experiment. Stand under a fan when your body is wet. You will feel cool. But why do you feel cool?  This happens because the water from your wet skin is evaporating and this process also takes away some heat from your body. The same thing happens when you are sweating. In hot weather or after exercising your body temperature rises and your sweat glands become active. What happens next? Then you start sweating. This sweat now comes in contact with air in the environment and starts evaporating. With this,some heat is also removed from our body. And then we feel cool.

Do you know why we sweat more in the summer? Sweating is directly related to the body temperature. In reality we sweat all the time, even when we sleep. But in hot weather or after exercising our body gets heated up faster and sweat glands become stimulated more, hence secreting more sweat.

You should know that sweating is good for health. We have already mentioned that sweating is an automatic cooling mechanism of our body. So, sweating saves us from overheating and regulates our body temperature. You will be happy to know that sweating cleans pores that are present in the skin thus preventing some skin problems like acne.

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Remember that when you are sweating then the water from your body drains out. When more water drains out from our body through sweat, this condition is called dehydration. Dehydration may cause serious illness. So in hot weather, always drink more water to fight dehydration and always keep a bottle of water with you. Even when you are playing football or basketball or doing some exercises, your water intake should be more.


Susmita Dasgupta

Susmita is a trained, veteran primary school teacher. She loves to teach and to make learning exciting for children. One of her great passions in life is to create in her students a curiosity about life and all its accompanying mysteries.

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