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There’s a reason babies and little kids smell sweet: Their apocrine glands aren’t yet active. Once puberty hits, and the apocrine glands start functioning fully, body odor can become an issue.

Another shift happens in midlife. About 75 percent of women experience hot flashes and sheet-soaking night sweats during perimenopause and menopause. This excessive sweating is probably caused by changes in reproductive hormones and changes in the body’s thermostat, says Rebecca Thurston, PhD, director of the Women’s Biobehavioral Health Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. “The central thermostat of the body malfunctions during menopausal transition,” she says.

Women can experience hot flashes or night sweats for several years. “We used to think the duration that a woman will have hot flashes and night sweats was three to five years,” says Thurston. “But the newest data shows that the really frequent, severe ones maybe last seven or eight years; and low-level symptomatology is probably closer to 10 years.”

Some doctors prescribe hormone therapy to ease the discomfort of night sweats, but many are working to develop nondrug approaches. Studies have shown that not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and using herbs like black cohosh may help. And Thurston notes that “the most effective behavioral treatment right now is hypnosis — believe it or not — with cooling suggestions.”

(For more on night sweats, see “What Causes Night Sweats?“.)

This was excerpted from “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sweat” which was published in the July/August 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Margret Aldrich

Margret Aldrich is a frequent Experience Life contributor.

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