Sports + Sweating Playbook V3: Treatments to Level the Playing Field
It’s a great time to be a sports fan! The 110th Tour de France is in its final four stages and FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer has just begun in New Zealand and Australia.
Believe it or not, it’s also a great time to be an athlete with hyperhidrosis (Hh).
Despite the many challenges that excessive sweating poses for fitness fanatics, we now have more treatment options than ever and more experienced medical professionals ready to provide them; experts like Kelley Pagliai Redbord, MD, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in hyperhidrosis, skin cancer, and dermatologic and cosmetic surgery. Dr. Redbord is Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, DC and an athlete, too, so we asked her about the promising arena of hyperhidrosis treatments for athletes and other high performers. We think her positive perspective can help you stick with or get back to the athletic pursuits you love!
Dr. Redbord: As an avid marathon runner, I understand how it feels to run a long, hot, grueling race. We all sweat when we play sports, but it is so important to remember that for people with hyperhidrosis, it is an entirely different experience. For athletes with hyperhidrosis, it can impair performance. Imagine not being able to grip your golf club or not even being able to see the tee because of excessive sweating getting into your eyes. Imagine the ball slipping through the hands of that Pro Bowl wide receiver because he has a potentially debilitating condition. Imagine the tennis star losing her racket into the stands because she could not get a good grip. Hyperhidrosis is way more than “sweating.” But, it can be treated and treating hyperhidrosis can improve performance, quality of life, and prevent social embarrassment for athletes as well as non-athletes.
I have taken care of many athletes who suffer from hyperhidrosis. One patient who comes to mind played college basketball. For her, dribbling and shooting with sweaty hands was a challenge. Botulinum toxin treatments were a huge help in controlling the disease and allowing her to excel on the court without the worry of excessive sweating.
Another patient was a young field hockey player who could not get a solid grip on her stick. While gloves, towels, and antiperspirants did not work, we found success with iontophoresis. She led her team in goals that season.
IHhS: What hyperhidrosis treatments do you recommend for avid exercisers, athletes and dancers?
Dr. Redbord: Hyperhidrosis can pose various issues for athletes, but the benefits of playing sports and engaging in physical exercise far outweigh the downsides — especially given the availability of treatments.
Every athlete — every person for that matter — with hyperhidrosis should be treated. Under the care of a knowledgeable healthcare provider, treatments should be tailored to the specific athlete based on myriad factors including the type of sport.
Topical antiperspirants or prescription wipes with glycopyrrolate can help stop sweaty hands, feet and armpits. Iontophoresis treatments for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis can safely reduce sweating in many athletes. Treating palmar hyperhidrosis is key for ball and racket sports and treating plantar hyperhidrosis can help any athlete, no matter the sport.
But, of course, there are often pros and cons to any treatment. It is critical to talk about potential side-effects up front. For example, while botulinum toxin can decrease sweating to a baseball player’s hands and help with gripping the bat, a potential side effect is temporary decreased hand muscle strength. But, it’s tolerable, not as bad as the original sweating problem, and relatively minor. The potential weakness fades in a month or faster while Botox’s effects last three to six months.
Using systemic medications in a safe and controlled setting can decrease sweating all over. Side-effects are often dose-related and should be monitored, especially during heavy exercise and in hot conditions. For example, glycopyrrolate, a common oral medication, can lead to dry mouth, blurred vision, headache, confusion, and drowsiness. Clonidine, another common systemic medication, comes with similar potential side-effects. An example of good monitoring under the care of a physician would be gradually increasing the dose in a runner while they increase their mileage.
IHhS: Do you think that treatments can help people with hyperhidrosis to continue to play sports and perform when they might have otherwise quit?
Dr. Redbord: Of course! While excessive sweating decreases performance and makes competing hard; patients who do not sweat as much [due to treatment], perform better, enjoy the sport more, and so continue to play and compete. Treating Hh also helps mood and the ambition to get out and play.
IHhS: We get asked about hydration a lot. Do athletes with Hh need to hydrate more than other athletes?
Dr. Redbord: The key for everyone is to stay hydrated. Keep drinking water!
IHhS: And, keep playing! A study in the journal Sports found that quality of life is higher in adults who participate in sports compared to those who do not. WebMD adds that playing sports benefits mental health – making you happier and less stressed. Learn more about hyperhidrosis treatment options, and we hope to see you out there playing something fun and cheering on your favorite elites soon! Don’t forget to bring your water bottle.
With back-to-school around the corner and pre-season practices getting going, check out our Sports + Sweating Playbook Volume 1, which is all about how to keep athletic gear drier, cleaner and healthier for the skin.
And, for our many friends in the Southern Hemisphere who are enjoying cooler temps – read Volume 2 for tips to avoid frostbite, hypothermia and the damp chill of sweaty winter workouts.
Thanks for reading our Sports + Sweating Playbooks, and thanks to Dr. Redbord for making this third edition such a win.
Stay tuned next month for Volume 4 when we’ll tackle hydration, dehydration, electrolytes and more!
In the meantime, use our Clinician Finder to track down empathetic, informed hyperhidrosis treatment and shop our Fan Fave Products page for discounts on high-powered antiperspirants, iontophoresis devices, sweat-busting clothing and shoe inserts, and body coolers. You’ll be saving money, finding products to make your life easier, and supporting innovative companies that care about hyperhidrosis, and support our work. #EveryoneWins