Sweaty Living



Everyone has sweaty hands from time to time. Remember that scary ride on the roller-coaster or that near-miss while driving?  I bet you had sweaty hands. If you did it would be quite natural.  Sweating is our autonomic nervous system’s response to fear and anxiety. But what if your hands were sweaty all the time even when you aren’t afraid or anxious?  What if everything you do with your hands, you do with wet hands? Can you imagine your feet sweating so much that sweat sprays out of your flip flops? And what about driving, playing a video game, using the computer? Could you do them with sweaty hands?  People who sweat too much have a condition called hyperhidrosis.

A Different Second-Grader

I know alot about living with hands and feet that sweat all the time. Since my daughter was six or seven years old, she’s been excessively sweating. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t have sweaty hands and feet. As a second-grader, she remembers that most of her classmates didn’t want to hold her hand when they played games. She remembers the teacher who seemed repulsed by the damp school paper my daughter just handed her. She remembers the cotton handkerchiefs I gave her to bring to school so she could wipe her hands during the day. She made lots of trips to the girl’s room to get paper towels so she could dry off her desktop. She knows that she was always sweating but her classmates didn’t.

Dressed and Sweating

My daughter is now almost thirty. The challenges of living with hyperhidrosis are still here. Young women love clothes, don’t they? Clothes, however, present one of the biggest challenges to someone with hyperhidrosis. For my daughter, what she wears is dictated by her desire to be comfortable with her condition. At the same time, like any young woman her age, she wants to look fashionable, sexy, and confident. Having big sweat stains on her clothes ruins her confidence. She has learned to choose her clothes carefully. She squeezes the fabric of a clothes item she is thinking of buying. If it shows the sweat, she won’t buy it. She needs to wipe off her hands during the day on what she is wearing. If it shows the sweat, it just wouldn’t be the right thing for her to wear. She looks for cotton clothes and cotton socks that absorb the sweat.

This young woman’s feet sweat as much as her hands. If she wants to wear slides or flip-flops like her friends, she knows she will have trouble walking because her feet will slip around. Shoes with a strap around the ankle often keep her from slipping on her shoes. Walking next to her, you’ll notice the sweat spraying off her flip-flop. Going without socks not only makes it difficult for her to walk in her shoes but also makes her hands sweat more and even swell. What is going on with her feet effects her hands. Cotton socks work best for her. So she wears white cotton sock with most of her shoes whether it looks fashionable or not. And white socks for bed is a must. That makes her most comfortable.

Physical comfort is important to her. Swollen hands and slippery feet are uncomfortable. So is the side effects of treating the condition. She has used a prescription lotion from time to time on her hands and feet. When the sweating is blocked by a medicated lotion like this, she doesn’t sweat. Instead her hand and feet begin to crack and bleed. She says it it is almost as uncomfortable to have them dry as have them wet.

Loving Sweating Hands

What does a young woman do when she goes out with a guy? My daughter says “most guys are grossed out by my hands”. You just can’t hold hands with anyone. One boyfriend was more accepting about her hands then others. He told her to pretend the sweaty hands were her super power. He called her “Water Girl”.

To Do or Can Not Do

When she isn’t going out or working, she watches TV a lot. That’s because most things are off limits to her. She can be very artistic but doesn’t have the chance to explore her creativity because of her sweaty hands. She loves scrap-booking but ruins the pages with her hands. Knitting is hard to do as is most any craft. She loves reading but has to be careful when she reads a library book or borrowed book. Her hands have been known to wreck the cover or wrinkle the pages.

Even choosing a career is directed by the concerns she has about her sweaty hands. At one time she thought about becoming a nurse but she couldn’t see herself touching her patients with her sweaty hands or wearing scrubs that might show off her sweating. She has worked in customer service for many years. She wears a headset and uses a computer. She says that her keyboards get messed up with her sweating. People notice how wet the keys are if they happen to come over to her cube and use her computer. She thinks it is the best career for her though. She doesn’t have to touch people and they don’t have to touch her.

No Sure or Easy Treatment

My daughter says most people think she is nervous and that is why her hands sweat. Strange as it may seem, her sweating is actually better when she feels uptight. When she was in grade-school, she was taken to a children’s hospital for outpatient treatment. Convinced that this second-grader suffered from an anxiety disorder, she was treated with behavior modification. She was given relaxation tapes to use. The psychologist suggested that perhaps this young girl had been sexually abused because her hands were so sweaty. But there was no history of sexual abuse and the treatment didn’t work. She gets frustrated when people think she is nervous so she has learned to let people know ahead of time that she has this condition. “I try to educate everyone I can about my condition”, she says. That’s the only way she can minimize the impact hyperhidrosis has had on her life.

There are treatments out there for hyperhidrosis. Botox injections help but are not a cure. Most insurance companies have rigid requirements for this treatment. Surgery can be done but it is not an easy surgery and the results can be “iffy”. You get rid of excessive sweating in one place and get it in another.  She’d love to have a life where she didn’t have to worry about sweating all the time but she doesn’t dwell on that. She believes the best way she can live her life is by accepting her condition, adapting to it the way people with a disability must with any disability, and teach people about it. And that’s just what her mother is doing with this post!

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One Comment on “Sweaty Living”

  1. Mai Says:

    Would this condition qualify for disabilty?

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