Please welcome Dawn (45) from South Carolina to the sweaty tribe. She is a brave soul with hyperhidrosis who has chosen to share her sweaty story on mylifeasapuddle.com. Going public about our sweaty secret can be scary, but using our sweaty voices is the bravest thing we will ever do.
On what areas of your body do you experience hyperhidrosis?
I’m not sure there isn’t a place I don’t sweat. The most noticeable areas are my hands, face, head, neck, feet, groin, lower back, and bum.
Dawns suffers from palmar hyperhidrosis (sweaty hands) in addition to hyperhidrosis on other areas of her body.
How did you discover that your excessive sweating is a recognized medical condition?
I’ve had Hh since I was born. According to my mother, I came out of the womb with sweaty hands and feet. Sometime in my early 20s I discovered what it was called. I believe it was during an OBGYN appointment. I told the doctor I needed to wear socks and apologized for being so sweaty.
I told her I sweat all the time, and through the conversation she told me I likely had Hh. I remember feeling dumb and thinking why I didn’t know this already. I just thought I was born sweatier than most people.
How does your hyperhidrosis impair your daily life?
Hh affects everything I do every day. Here’s an average day in my life:
First, I require my house to be at a certain temperature at night (65-70 degrees) with a ceiling fan on low, because if I sweat when sleeping I will soak the sheets and won’t be able to sleep. If I’m too cold, I sweat; too hot, I sweat.
When I wake up, the first thing I’m conscious of is the humidity for the day. If humidity is low, then I’m more relieved with less to be concerned about. Plus, I get excited because I that means I could wear a dress or jeans and flip flops.
If it’s humid, then I know socks/tennis shoes are must as are a loose-fitting shirt and pants, preferably all dry-fit materials (so excited this material was invented). I own dry fit clothing down to my undergarments.
Hyperhidrosis and Clothing
I can’t wear certain colors, materials, or shoes. Silk and wool are never an option, nor pretty shoes. I do buy pretty shoes but can only wear them on specific occasions and usually have to have an ankle strap so my feet don’t slip out when I walk. Most of my dress shoes have to be thrown away after so many wears because sweat stains show up.
I always have to buy my exercise shoes a size larger because my sweaty feet will swell and the shoes will feel tight.
Tricks for Coping With Hyperhidrosis
My desk contains a towel on my chair, so if I sweat my chair doesn’t get wet. I also have at least 3 or 4 “sweat pads” at a time at my desk. My sweat pad is simply an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded down that I place under my hands. One under my left hand at the keyboard, one under my right hand to use my computer mouse, and at least another one with my notebook for when I’m writing.
I’ve used sweat pads as far back as the first grade. I remember in elementary school my teacher wouldn’t let me use it when I took my test. She then told me I got a 0 on my test because the scan-tron reader couldn’t read my test. This is because my hand made the paper wet and the pencil went through the sheet and therefore the machine couldn’t read it.
I remember crying to my parents and my father having a sit-down with the teacher to clear up the situation. From then on she gave me a blank piece of paper from her desk before each test.
Hyperhidrosis and Exercise
I hit the gym Monday through Friday. Probably the only place besides the pool or beach where I can fully sweat and everyone else does, too. However, I still sweat more than most people at the gym. I always hear “You’re working hard.” or “Your workout must have been tough.”
I laugh because I could have done a low intensity Pilates class where I’m relaxed, yet I look like I just took a shower. When I worked in an office (I now work from home), I had to workout after work so I could go home and shower. I’ve always been envious of people who can workout in the middle of the day and their hair and makeup are still in place.
The great thing about working from home is I’m not embarrassed that I sweat, and I can work out during the day. However, even the gym has its drawbacks. I have to use a lot of chalk when I’m using the bars for pull-ups, climbing rope, or lifting weights. Nothing like sweaty chalk clumping up on your hands. Forget the dream of being a Ninja Warrior; I can’t do 80 percent of the course because I can’t hang from my hands. It didn’t take long for my mom to figure out gymnastics wouldn’t work when I was six years old, since I would slip off most of the equipment.
Excessive Bathing Due to Hyperhidrosis
The last part of my day ends with a shower. My dermatologist told me I’ve developed dry, itchy skin (how ironic!) from excessive bathing. However, there is rarely a day that goes by where I don’t feel I have to shower due to my sweating. I always worry I stink, and I feel I have to get the sweat off.
Because my skin gets dry, I tend to use a lot of lotion. You can find at least one bottle in every location of my house, purse, and car. Ironically, when I apply the lotion, it makes me sweat. I have found some that make me sweat less. (Am I the only one who has a hard time putting on sunscreen when my hands are excessively sweating?)
Do you avoid certain things because of your sweating?
I have learned to taper my activities and life around my Hh. High humidity is my nemesis. I can’t be outside during high humid and high heat days. I get to a “sweat wall.” When high heat and humidity are combined and I’m outside for too long, I get overheated and my body can’t sweat fast enough to cool me down, so I start to swell. My hands and feet will swell up so much my shoes will not fit, and I can barely move my fingers and toes because my skin is so stretched.
Dawn with her family.
I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and I’ve lived in Denver, Colorado in addition to the Carolinas. It doesn’t matter the location, I still sweat. However, higher humidity/heat locations will cause the sweat wall to occur. I avoid Florida.
I avoid certain types of clothing and shoes. I avoid work events whenever possible. I have work projects in Jamaica, which I’d love to visit more often; however, depending on the time of year I make excuses to not go because no proper clothing would help me there in high humidity.
I would love to use false eyelashes, but I sweat too much. At this point in my life, I’ve never met anyone like me who has sweaty eyelids, too. Forget eye shadow and regular mascara. I’ve tried waterproof mascara, but I’m allergic to it and it will make my eyes itch and water.
I avoid drinking alcohol unless on a special occasion as it will make me sweat more. I avoid holding hands with other people and holding babies. Babies tend to be wrapped up and warm and within five minutes of holding them my hands are sweating through the poor baby’s clothes. I usually don’t hold them. If I do, I try to pass them to my husband and make the excuse I can’t hold them anymore because I want everyone to have a chance to hold them.
Weddings and Hyperhidrosis
I pretty much avoid situations where I don’t have a way out or an excuse to leave if I’m sweating too much. A couple of years ago my best friend got married. I promised her a long time ago that if/when she got married, I’d be a bridesmaid. I have always had a policy with my friends where I would help with wedding events but don’t want to be a bridesmaid.
The amount of sweat I produce when put on the spot in front of a lot of people is so excruciating that I will have a panic attack.
I’ll end up with sweating rolling down my legs and back, with evidence on the floor where I was standing. Since I promised my best friend and I because I love her so much, I agreed. I had a panic attack the night before the wedding because she chose to have her wedding in the middle of July in an open air barn.
I was nauseous. There was no breeze where we were standing, and the bridesmaid behind me kept blowing on the back of my neck to help cool me down. I had a couple of napkins in my hand, but they were soaking wet within the first five minutes of being up there. Sadly, I was counting the minutes during this beautiful ceremony until I could get out of there and out of the dress (which wasn’t until the end of the night).
Do you find that hyperhidrosis affects your mental health? If so, in what ways and how do you cope?
Hh definitely has an affect on my mental health. The fear of being shamed, getting questioned, or enduring curious looks from people about why I’m sweating is always present. However, I try to avoid situations where this would happen, but this is difficult to do if you leave your house.
I’ve had people see my hands and actually say “Gross, why are your hands so sweaty?” in a work setting.
When I was little, the teacher would hold my hand because the other kids would not. You can usually tell where I was recently sitting in my house because you’ll see a sweat mark. I deal with it, but it is and always has been at the front of my mind and affects the decisions I make.
What treatments for hyperhidrosis – if any – have you tried?
I tried Certain Dry antiperspirant, which they suggested I use on my palms, but I didn’t like how it made my skin feel. I’ve never taken any medication for Hh.
In the 90s, I looked into ETS surgery for hyperhidrosis, where they clamp the nerves. However, when I collected more information from the office that was offering this surgery, the side effects were not worth it for me. The sweat would still come out somewhere, just in a different location. Since I’m already sweating and know where it’s going to be, I didn’t want to trade that for another set of sweating problems in areas I wasn’t used to.
Is anything working for you to help you cope with your hyperhidrosis?
I avoid uncomfortable situations and make accommodations to cope with Hh. Until I read an article on Maria’s blog, I didn’t know there were other people who are like me. I knew Hh existed and that obviously people had it, but maybe they had less severe cases and could hide it. I’ve never met anyone with Hh and if I had, they hid it well. I truly thought I was a rare exception with the amount of sweating I had. I am thankful that my Hh is not a life-threatening disease.
What’s the worst thing about your hyperhidrosis?
It’s mentally exhausting to think about it every day.
What do you think is the biggest misconception when it comes to hyperhidrosis?
The comments that I come across regularly are
- “You must be nervous.”
- “You must be really hot.”
- “Are you feeling OK?”
- “Do you have a fever?”
- Or the bold, non-filtered comment, “Why are you so sweaty?”
I’ve used the I’m not feeling well excuse so many times that people will back away or dig out Tylenol from their purse to give to me.
What would you like to see in the future when it comes to treatments for hyperhidrosis?
Something that makes it stop all together and doesn’t cause something else to go wrong that we would need a pill or surgery for. Air-conditioned car seats should be covered by insurance. 🙂 I was so excited the first time I discovered these.
If you could tell the world only one thing about hyperhidrosis, what would it be?
Hey world of people who don’t have hyperhidrosis. It’s just sweat. Get over it.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about your sweaty story?
I appreciate the stories told on mylifeasapuddle.com. I only wish we were all friends who lived near each other so we could sweat together. I’m grateful that my family and friends love me and all my sweat.
Do you have a sweaty story?
I’ve opened my blog to the larger hyperhidrosis community. If you’d like to be featured, please fill out the form on my Contact Me page. In the subject line, enter Guest Post. Not a writer? No worries! I can edit your story, send you questions to answer to create one, or you can record a video.
(Feature image credit at top of page: Clint Patterson on Unsplash)