For sweaty teens, school can be stressful. Help is here.
We have all experienced clammy palms or a damp forehead when we are nervous. But for many people, sweat can be embarrassing or frustrating. It can lead to armpit stains or uncomfortable social interactions. This is especially true for teens entering puberty. And it can be all too noticeable as those kids head back for another year of school.
When excessive sweating is severe, it’s called hyperhidrosis. But for teenagers heading back to school, even normal levels of adolescent sweating can be embarrassing. We spoke to pharmacist Martez Prince, PharmD, about the causes and treatment options for teens suffering from excessive sweating. He is the CEO of Premier Pharmacy and Wellness Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Q: When is sweat a cause for concern?
Prince: It’s completely normal to sweat if you’re out running or playing a sport. It’s also normal for a teenager to sweat in PE class. That’s how our bodies regulate our temperatures. As long as the sweating stops at some point afterward, then it’s not a concern. But if your body is still producing sweat hours after you exercise, that could be a problem. Likewise, it becomes a cause for concern if you are sweating excessively while at rest or sleeping.
So what does excessive sweating look like? Let’s say you’re not exerting energy but your face is sweating and your underarms are soaked. Or you take off your shoes and your socks are completely damp. That would be something to examine.
Q: What underlying issues can cause excessive sweating?
Prince: For a teenager, it could be something as simple as anxiety. But excessive sweating more generally can also be caused by obesity, diabetes or thyroid problems.
So what I would tell individuals is to monitor what’s going on to see if the excessive sweating happens only now and again. If so, it may not be a serious issue. You may want to keep a journal and write down when the sweating is happening and what activity you’re doing. That information could be useful to a doctor if you decide to bring it up later.
Q: What can parents do if their teen seems to be sweating excessively?
Prince: As a parent, I would start with looking at your teen’s lifestyle: stress levels, if they’re using an antiperspirant deodorant and the type of clothing they’re wearing. Heavy and non-breathable fabrics can increase the risk of sweating. Relaxed-fit cotton and linen are good options in summer. And although it can be hard to get your teen to take a break from their favorite jeans, they could consider similar-looking materials such as chambray to replace denim during high-temperature days.
Also, if your teen happens to be on any medications, take a closer look at them. Sometimes things like antidepressants can cause excessive sweating. You should ask their pharmacist or doctor if this medication could be causing the issue. [Find answers to your top questions about depression here.]
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Q: If lifestyle changes don’t work, what do you recommend as the next line of defense?
Prince: The first is an antiperspirant. Regular deodorant blocks odor but doesn’t affect sweating. Antiperspirant, on the other hand, has aluminum salts that block sweat glands. The most effective and common of these is aluminum chloride. You can find products not only for armpits but also for hands, scalp and feet.
Antiperspirants are available over the counter, and teens can try “clinical-strength” options with higher concentrations of aluminum chloride [such as Certain-Dri®]. If those don’t work, you can talk to a doctor about prescription products that are even stronger. Just be sure to tell the doctor what your teen has already tried. That will help determine next steps.
[Click here to download a coupon for Drysol®, a prescription antiperspirant.]
Other prescription options include cloth wipes such as Qbrexza® (glycopyrronium). Of course, before your teen gets into using medicated products, you’ll want to talk to their doctor first.
Q: Do these medications come with side effects?
Prince: [Qbrexza is] in a class we call anticholinergics, which will block the sweat glands. But whatever is applied topically will go into the bloodstream. So some of the possible side effects will be related to the body not producing as much fluid. Think dry mouth or dry eyes. If you or your teen is using any of these products, make sure you increase hydration, especially in the summertime.
In extreme situations, medication for sweat could lead to symptoms such as blurred vision, problems urinating or problems with regulating your body temperature. These are more extreme side effects that are rare, but they are things to be aware of.
Q: Are there any treatments that may be a little too intense for a teenager?
Prince: There are also more extreme measures like laser treatments, Botox® injections or surgeries to remove sweat glands. But I wouldn’t recommend those for teens. These are for people who still have serious sweat issues into adulthood.
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