One response to my previous post on does sweating more mean that I’m getting fitter? was… “I currently don’t sweat. Yep. I turn red like a beetroot, but no sweat. What should I do?”
Contrary to the opinions of several of my male colleagues, your skin is still the largest organ of the human body. Understanding that it can malfunction, just like any other organ, and being able to pigeonhole why… could actually save your life!
So, why don’t some people sweat?
Interestingly, most of us sweat all day and all night, all the time, we just don’t know it. Sometimes we sweat less and sometimes more. Like when I met my girlfriend’s father for the first time, and his twelve gauge shot gun (nicknamed “Rest-it-tution”) lying across his lap. At that very moment I had no problem sweating, in fact my perspiration levels began to increase exponentially.
‘What was your name again son?’
As I answered his question, he nodded silently and reached down to retrieve a fresh shell from his ammo case. He scratched my name into the red plastic outer with a rusty nail that I’m pretty sure he’d been chewing on and then carefully placed the freshly inscribed shell upright on the mantelpiece, alongside four others.
‘Now we won’t be needing that, will we son? I’m sure you’ll have her back home by ten.’
I don’t know if I suffered a bladder malfunction or my ballistic sweat levels had just exceeded DEFCON ONE but I may have deposited a small puddle on their lounge room floor. I’m not 100% certain about that but I am 100% certain that I deposited Alison back home at precisely eight thirty that night.
It’s clear that I have no problem sweating, even without exercising, but some people don’t sweat at all, ever, even when they know that there is a bullet with their name on it, standing at attention, silently waiting for them.
The three most common conditions that cause people not to sweat are Anhidrosis, Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia or Congenital Canine Gene Syndrome but, of course, you already knew that.
With one chance in 150, anhidrosis is the most likely diagnosis. If you lived in Texas, that’s roughly the same odds of taking a pot shot in your backyard and discovering a multi-million dollar oil deposit there. If you lived anywhere else in the world, it’s around the same chance of getting adopted by Angelina Jolie.
Anhidrosis (or hypohidrosis), is the inability to sweat normally. When you don’t perspire, your body can’t cool itself, which can lead to overheating or even heatstroke, which can be fatal, or worse.
Mild anhidrosis often goes undiagnosed and many factors can cause this condition, including skin trauma and certain diseases and medications. It can be passed down from your parents, or you can develop it later in life.
Symptoms of anhidrosis include: little or no perspiration, dizziness, muscle cramps, red (beetroot like) flushes, feeling hot. And the inability to perspire can occur over all of your body, in just one area or in scattered patches.
Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia
You have one chance in around 17,000 of this being the cause. That’s exactly the same odds of having an agreeable mother in law or meeting Bigfoot. The odds that your mother in law actually is Bigfoot are much more likely.
Most people with this condition would have been diagnosed at birth. They have a chronically challenged ability to sweat because they have much fewer sweat glands then normal or their sweat glands do not function. Other symptoms include sparse scalp and body hair, malformed teeth (generally pointed), and dark coloured skin around the eyes.
Until relatively recently, people suffering from hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia would often be earmarked as vampires and would hide indoors during daylight hours, embarrassed to be seen in public. This helped give rise to the myth that vampires are afraid of sunlight. Of course, the odds of meeting a vampire, or any blood sucking parasite, or any other type of politician, are pretty good (or bad, depending on which one you meet), and about the same as those Texans discovering their accidental fortune.
Congenital Canine Gene Syndrome
I have no idea what the odds are of this extremely rare and scarcely researched syndrome, but you would probably have more chance of your face appearing on the next print of ten dollar bills, or any other denomination of currency for that matter. Or more chance of being electrocuted by a giant green squid (of the flying alien variety), at two o’clock in the afternoon on your fortieth birthday.
Although genetics can play a role in the first two possible disorders discussed here, congenital canine gene syndrome is all about genetics. It would be prudent to check your family tree for any canine lineage. Ancestors with names like “Spot” or “Rex” or even “Buster” or “Lucky” are usually a dead giveaway.
Lack of sweat could mean that you carry this gene.
Dogs don’t sweat, they pant to keep cool which completely bypasses the nasty side effects of sweating (such as body odour causing bacteria). As air passes over a dog’s elongated tongue, the moisture from their tongue evaporates, cooling the air as it is drawn into their lungs.
Panting helps dogs regulate their body temperature from the inside and lying spreadeagle, on a cool, flat surface, helps from the outside. Dogs have a cunning two pronged approach.
We humans only do it from the outside – via perspiration – that stuff can find its’ way into crevices where it’s far from welcome.
But which cooling system is best?
One that has bodily fluids trickling and pooling, often where they’re not wanted, with putrefying bacteria, or one based on evaporated dog saliva?
If you find it difficult to sweat and feel like you’re overheating you should certainly get yourself examined properly by a medical practitioner.
In the short term, strip off and lay face down on a concrete slab. Stretch your arms and legs out like you are sky diving or have been run over by a Looney Tunes Steam Roller. Maximise the surface area of your belly, stretch and flatten it to the floor.
Then roll out your tongue and pant.
Or, alternatively, just splash some nice cool water over yourself.