Sweating is one of the ways that our bodies can get rid of excess heat. We usually sweat when we are in a warm place or if we’ve heated our bodies up by exercising. As the sweat evaporates from our bodies, it carries away some of this heat so that our skin cools down. We won’t usually notice this happening unless we get very warm, but some people can sweat a lot more than usual due to a condition known as hyperhidrosis, which is particularly common in children and younger people.
How Much Sweat is Too Much?
Sweating is normal when it happens in situations that heat the body up. You should expect your child to sweat when they are in a warm environment, if they have been physically active, or if they have a fever. If they get very warm then they can sweat quite heavily. As they cool down after changing environments or recovering from their illness, then the sweating should stop.
Some children sweat more than others, but it should usually be obvious why they need to sweat and it shouldn’t be so heavy that it interferes with normal activities. If your child is sweating in situations that wouldn’t make other people sweat or they are often losing a lot of water in sweat then it could be a sign of hyperhidrosis.
You might notice that your child:
- Often sweats through clothes or wakes up with sweaty bedding
- Has visible sweat on their face or arms even when other people aren’t sweating
- Sweats when he or she is feeling stressed or anxious
- Has difficulty gripping toys or other objects due to sweaty palms
Some children sweat excessively all over their bodies but others may only be affected in one area, such as their hands or armpits.
Diagnosing Hyperhidrosis in Children
If you think that your child is sweating more than normal then you should consult a doctor. Hyperhidrosis can be a sign of an underlying condition such as an infection or thyroid problem that requires treatment. Issues affecting the sympathetic nervous system that controls sweating can also cause hyperhidrosis. In some cases, these issues can be hereditary so hyperhidrosis can run in your family. Even if there is no identifiable cause hyperhidrosis can be very distressing and may interfere with everyday activities so it is important to seek medical advice.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and perform a physical exam. Tests may be performed to rule out potential causes such as infections. The doctor may also perform a starch iodine test or paper test to assess how much your child is sweating.
If there is an underlying cause then the doctor may be able to recommend treatment to address this, which should help to relieve your child’s sweating symptoms. There are also some treatments that can help manage your child’s excessive sweating even if the underlying cause can’t be identified or treated.
Iontophoresis for Hyperhidrosis
Sometimes it is possible to manage hyperhidrosis with topical treatments such as medicated antiperspirants or medications such as anticholinergics. However, there is always a risk of side effects with any medication so this isn’t always the best option for every child. The medication can cause issues such as constipation and dry mouth, especially if your child doesn’t drink enough while taking it.
Another treatment option that is popular for children is iontophoresis, which is available at the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic. Iontophoresis involves placing the affected body parts in trays of water or covering them with wet sponges or cloths. A mild electric current is then passed though the liquid. It isn’t fully understood exactly how iontophoresis disrupts the sweat glands but it has proven to be a safe and effective treatment for excessive sweating in children.
Up to 85% of people who have hyperhidrosis on their hands or feet experienced an improvement after iontophoresis and it was effective for 70% of people with excessive underarm sweating. The treatment has to be repeated regularly to maintain the effects, but the impact on your child’s quality of life can be huge. Excessive sweating can be very embarrassing for children and it can cause problems at school and while playing, especially when the hands are affected. Iontophoresis can provide a safe and effective way to prevent these problems.