Why we sweat


Sweat is a natural body process that most people would choose to live without if they could. The smell and sometimes the coloring that is left on clothing are things we would all like to do without. However, sweat is a very important and necessary body function that people need to keep them healthy.

Everybody sweats. In fact people are constantly sweating all the time. It may not be a noticeable thing, but it is happening at all times. Sweat is a natural function that our bodies do. Sweat can be annoying, but is vital for a healthy body. The body is constantly producing heat due to muscles, nerve stimulation, and chemical reactions that occur in the body. These are all beneficial in metabolism of the body. The body cooling itself off from the heat being produced is a result of sweating. This is a very important process. People need to maintain a certain body temperature, the normal temperature being 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and sweat helps us to do that (Body odour-Thesite.org). Without sweat our bodies would not be able to handle the heat coming from our bodies. One thing that could happen if we did not sweat would be possibly having a heat stroke. Sweat produces on the skin, and then evaporates to start cooling the body off (Body odour-Thesite.org).

The process of cooling down the body results in sweating. When sweat is evaporated from the skin it removes the heat and starts to cool the body. The relative humidity in the air is what influences rate of evaporation of sweat. If it is humid outside, sweat does not evaporate or cool your body as efficiently as if it were dry outside. This is due to the water vapor in the air. Most of the sweat in your body is not necessarily evaporated, but in essence runs of the skin. When sweat is evaporated it leaves the sodium chloride and potassium on your skin. This is why many will say that sweat has a salty taste to it (How does sweat work, why do we sweat?).

All the food that the body takes in must be burned off. Heat is then produced, and it triggers our brain to activate the cooling process. Body heat is produced by working muscles and also by metabolism. When the body temperature is raised, the autonomic nervous system stimulates the sweat glands to produce sweat. The sweat glands produce sweat, causing moisture to appear on the skin. The heat our body produces is eliminated when the sweat on our skin evaporates. Nerve stimulation, heat, and exercise are ways that sweat is produced. This all gets started from a sweat gland (How does sweat work, why do we sweat?).

A person has roughly 2.6 million sweat glands in their body. Sweat glands are found almost everywhere in the body. Men surprisingly, tend to have fewer sweat glands than women. However, men's sweat glands are more active than a woman's. Puberty is when the glands tend to become most active. Sweat glands however, are not located in the nipples, lips, and external genital organs. The never endings, hair follicles, and the dermis layer of the skin make up the sweat gland (How does sweat work, why do we sweat?).

The two types of sweat glands are located in the body. These are the appocrine and eccrine sweat glands. The two sweat glands have many differences. Eccrine sweat glands make up the majority of the sweat glands in the body. They are located in the forehead, soles of the feet, palms of the hands, and many other parts of the body. The other type of sweat gland is the appocrine sweat gland. This gland is found typically in the armpits and the genital and anal region. As soon as puberty hits the appocrine glands are activated. The eccrine glands are active as soon as a person is born. Appocrine sweat glands are also found in the lining of the ear. These produce ear wax to prevent foreign matter from entering into the ears (Hassam).

Sweat is produced in the long coiled part of cells located in the epidermis. The duct is the long part that connects the gland and the pore on the skin's surface. Here nerve cells attach from the sympathetic nervous system directly to the sweat glands. When the sweat gland becomes stimulated, cells will secrete a sweat. Sweat is composed mostly of water, sodium, chloride, and potassium. It can be neutral or slightly alkaline. Sweat comes from the blood vessels in the dermis of the skin. It then travels to the interstitial spaces between the cell walls. From here, the sweat will go from the coiled part of the cell to the straight duct. This will then produce sweat on the outside of the body (How does sweat work, why do we sweat?).

The amount of sweat that is produced can depend on many things. The temperature, environmental conditions, sympathetic nervous system response, and the number of sweat glands are all variables in the amount of sweat a person produces. At rest and in cool temperatures people still sweat. Cells reabsorb some of the sodium and chlorine from the sweat. Water is reabsorbed because there is not enough time for absorption to occur. Very little sweat actually reaches the outside of the skin. This is when there is a low sweat production. When people exercise or when it is hot outside, people tend to have a high sweat production. High sweat production has about twenty percent more sodium then when the body is at rest. In high sweat production, cells in the straight duct do not have time to reabsorb all of the sodium and chloride that is being secreted. In turn there is more sweat brought to the surface of the skin (How does sweat work, why do we sweat?).

Sweat can also be caused from the sympathetic nervous system. If a person is nervous, anxious, scared, or afraid, sweat can occur. All of these things will cause an increase in the epinephrine secretion from the adrenal glands. This in turn produces sweat. This kind of sweat normally comes from the eccrine sweat glands. The odor that most people think is coming from sweat is actually caused by bacteria. When the bacteria from the skin comes in contact with sweat, it metabolizes the proteins and fatty acids and produces an odor (How does sweat work, why do we sweat?).

Sweat is a beneficial part of living. It helps to keep our body cool and regulate things normally. Although uncomfortable, and sometimes obnoxious it is a key part to living. When we start to think about sweating, we will now know the reasons why we do and where it comes from.


  • Body odour-Thesite.org. (n.d). Retrieved March 24, 2010, from Thesite.org: http://www.thesite.org/healthandwellbeing/apperance/yourbody/yourbodyodour
  • Hassam. (n.d). Why we Sweat. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from hubpages.com: http://hubpages.com/hub/Why-We-Sweat
  • How does sweat work; why do we sweat? (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2010, from Beat psoriasis home medical treatment solutions: http://psoriasiscafe.org/sweat-works.htm

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