What If You Stopped Sweating?

Whether you’re at the gym, at home with a broken air conditioner or having a bite of some spicy food, you could be sweating right now. Wouldn’t it be nice to leave that wet, smelly feeling behind forever? How could you make your body stop sweating? What would happen to your body if you didn’t perspire? And how could you manage to keep yourself cool?

You might have a nice sense of style or listen to new music. But your sweat is what keeps you cool. The sweat glands in your skin produce this salty, clear liquid. And you’ve got somewhere between two and four million of these glands in your body. If that fact just made you drop your phone, it could be because your hands are where most of your sweat glands are. And your feet as well.

When the ducts in your skin release sweat, the liquid starts to evaporate to cool you down. At first, it doesn’t smell like anything. It only starts to stink when bacteria break down the acids. On average, you sweat about 1,263 L (278 gal) of liquid per year. And one intense workout could have you sweating anywhere between 0.5 L (18 oz) and 4 L (140 oz) of the stinky stuff.

But if you lost the ability to sweat, would your body temperature go up and up and up? Want to cut out excess sweating? How about treating yourself to Botox? All over your body.

While Botox may be a treatment for excess sweating, this could end up as a huge mistake. This procedure could lead to nerve damage that would block your sweat glands. If all your sweat glands were no longer functioning, you wouldn’t sweat. At all. You would have a condition known as anhidrosis.

Without a way for your body to get rid of excess heat, even the mildest activities like standing, walking or eating dinner would increase your body temperature. If you live somewhere hot or like to do more strenuous exercise, your temperature would increase even more. Pretty soon, you’d be running a fever.

Your skin would start to feel dry and hot. Your ears could turn red. You’d start to feel lethargic and irritated. Especially when your body temperature keeps going up. You’d suffer from heat exhaustion. You would feel weak and nauseous. Your heart rate would increase.

Your only solution at this point would be to get to the coolest place you can. Maybe you’d need to hop in a cold shower. Or gulp down glass after glass of ice water. If you weren’t able to cool down, you’d be getting close to heatstroke. That happens when your body temperature goes above 39 °C (103 °F).

At temperatures higher than this, your blood-brain barrier would break down. That means unwanted particles and bacteria would start to build up in the brain, leading to inflammation. If you couldn’t cool down dramatically, brain cells would start to die.

You’d lose motor functions and start to feel confused. Eventually, you could lose consciousness. There’s a good chance you’d have permanent brain damage. Or worse, you could die. Well, that’s morbid. Want a tiny shred of good news? Lack of sweat could be what your skin needs to look great. No more clogged pores or acne.

If you have this sweat-free condition, there are some changes you’d have to make to avoid the fatal scenario I just laid out. You should avoid strenuous movement of any kind. You’d need to eat food that you could easily digest. And make sure you know where a cool shower is at any given moment. But speak to your doctor. Don’t search for medical advice from strangers on the internet.

Oh, and maybe get a robot to do everything for you. And sweat or no sweat, that may not be so far into the future.

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