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Excessive sweating in women: Tips to stay dry

Limit spicy foods and caffeine

If you experience excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, you're one of the 2-3% of people who sweat up to 10 times more than people without the condition. It can help to keep a symptom diary, including foods and drinks consumed, to identify the things that make you sweat heavily. Then avoid the sweating triggers you've identified. Common ones include alcohol and spicy food, such as curries or hot peppers.

Bathe with care

When bacteria mix with sweat, they cause odour. Bathe or shower daily, but not with products based on soap, which can make things worse. The Hyperhidrosis UK support group recommends using a special emollient wash available from pharmacies. Dry off completely, since bacteria and germs thrive in dampness.

Manage hot flushes and night sweats

If menopause causes hot flushes or night sweats, many remedies are available. Apply a cool, wet flannel to your skin or drink iced water for relief. Prescription medications and hormone therapy may also relieve hot flushes.  Some women try complementary therapies, but evidence is lacking for many of these. Seek medical advice if hot flushes are causing problems, and before trying a supplement or herbal remedy.

Choose the right clothes

Loose-fitting clothes and natural fabrics like cotton let air circulate around your skin, which slows the build-up of moisture. When you exercise, wear fabrics and socks that pull moisture away from your skin. Consider absorbent under layers like t-shirts. Keep an extra shirt or jacket handy in case your sweating becomes excessive. Black or white clothes are less likely to show sweat marks.

Reduce stress

Stress can cause sweating, and excessive perspiration can make you stressed and anxious. Try to break this vicious circle with relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing and biofeedback. Yoga classes, guided imagery, or just some more me-time may help. If stress is a problem, seek medical advice. A talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help.

Find the right antiperspirant

Aluminium chloride based antiperspirants can help reduce excessive sweating, in over-the-counter or prescription forms. These antiperspirants work by blocking sweat gland ducts. For mild symptoms, products are available in shops. Apply a thin layer of antiperspirant to towel-dried skin before bed. The active ingredients work while you sleep, then it is washed-off in the morning. Deodorants reduce odour, but don't help with wetness.

Care for your feet

If sweaty feet are a problem, avoid tights. Wear socks made from cotton or materials that wick moisture from the skin, and change your socks often. Make sure shoes are completely dry before you wear them again. This may mean not wearing the same shoes 2 days in a row. Absorbent insoles may also be helpful. Go barefoot, if you can safely. Antiperspirants aren't just for underarms. You can use them on your feet and hands, too.

Keep your cool

Lower temperatures at home and at work can help reduce sweating. Try a fan or air conditioner, or open the windows to keep air moving. Drink plenty of cold water and take cool showers or baths. Dress in layered clothing so you can remove or add layers as the temperature changes. In summer, stay out of the sun and avoid strenuous activities in the hotter parts of the day.

Stay healthy

Obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol can cause or intensify heavy sweating. So aim for a healthy weight, quit smoking and limit alcohol. Not only will you reduce sweating, but you'll also feel better and reduce your risk of many health conditions.

Protect your skin and clothes

Wet skin folds are prone to irritant dermatitis and infection. Consider underarm disposable sweat pads to absorb sweat and protect your clothing. Change your clothes daily and wash them regularly. Dry clothes thoroughly before wearing them again.

Seek medical advice

If excessive sweating causes problems in your life, and self-help tips haven't helped, talk to your GP about other treatments. A referral to a dermatologist may be recommended. Treatments for excessive sweating include Botulinum toxin injections (Botox) to block nerve signals from the brain to sweat glands, low-level electrical current treatment called iontophoresis, and some medications and surgical procedures can help reduce heavy sweating. If heavy sweating is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, unplanned weight loss, chest pain or a rapid heartbeat, seek urgent medical advice. It may be a sign of an untreated medical condition.

Sweating too much? Here's some relief

Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 22, 2016

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