Can Sweat Spread COVID-19?
Sweat & Coronavirus: International Hyperhidrosis Society Weighs In
Pipersville, PA, July 6, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The non-profit International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS) has been offering medical and scientific expertise on a full range of sweat topics for 20 years. From hyperhidrosis (chronic, extreme sweating) to chromhidrosis (like blue or green sweat), IHhS provides the sweat-health information people need to stay up-to-date and prepared. In that vein, here's important information from thought leaders about sweat and COVID-19.
Shocker: Sweat could actually help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 (among other things) says Dr. Adam Friedman*, Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Dermatology at The George Washington University and IHhS faculty member. "Sweat," he says, "has some inherent antimicrobial activity. The sweat nitrate becomes acidified when it hits the skin, generating nitric oxide, which is one of the most potent broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents. In fact, gaseous nitric oxide is being currently studied as a potential treatment for some of the severe complications related to COVID-19."
And when it’s not helping prevent virus transmission, sweat certainly is not making transmission terribly easy, either, according to Angela Ballard, RN with IHhS. “From what we understand about COVID-19 so far,” says Ballard, “perspiration would need to become mixed with virus-laden respiratory droplets or mucus from an infected person and then come into direct contact with another person's mouth, nose, or eye mucous membranes in order for a sweat-borne COVID-19 infection to occur.”
Of course, it's important keep in mind that in warm, indoor places (like the gym or subway), where sweating is likely to occur, physical distancing can be difficult. Also, that respiratory droplets from an infected person could land on surfaces others touch and where viruses might live for a few hours or sometimes days (depending on surface, temperature and other factors in the environment.) For instance, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) says a small amount of the new coronavirus can still be detected on plastic surfaces for up to three days, on stainless steel for up to two days, and up to one day on cardboard. But even with that, risks of infection through touch are likely small, says a professor of cell biology with The Johns Hopkins University, as the amount of virus lingering on surfaces for long periods is less than 0.1% of the starting virus material.
Bottom line: Scientists say there's no evidence that sweat, by itself, can transmit COVID-19. Some experts even think sweat can help prevent COVID-19 infection.
For anyone worried about catching or spreading COVID-19 via sweat right now, it’s probably more productive to focus on maintaining vigilance regarding key tenets experts have been stressing for months:
- Wash your hands often and well
- Avoid touching your face
- Wear a mask in public (low-tech, DIY masks are fine for this purpose)
- Maintain physical distance (6 feet or 2 meters)
- Sanitize frequently-touched surfaces, and
- Follow your community's public health recommendations.
For more sweat health information, subscribe to the IHhS blog today. IHhS informational services are always free.
*Additional information about Dr. Friedman, quoted earlier: Dr. Friedman served as co-chair, host and faculty member at the International Hyperhidrosis Society's 2019 Hyperhidrosis (Hh) Master Class in Patient Care and Practice Efficiency. His roles at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences are extensive and include what has already been mentioned above, as well as Residency Program Director, Director of Translational Research, and Director of Supportive Oncodermatology in GW's Department of Dermatology. To contact Dr. Friedman, reach out to Christine Fleckenstein at the International Hyperhidrosis Society (Christine@SweatHelp.org).
About the International Hyperhidrosis Society
The International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS) was founded in 2003 by a team of dedicated advocates working alongside physicians respected worldwide for achievements in hyperhidrosis research and treatment. Today, IHhS remains the only independent, non-profit, global organization striving to improve quality of life among those affected by excessive sweating (as well as helping those with other sweat disorders.) IHhS’ mission focuses on reducing the symptoms, anxiety and social stigma associated with sweating problems. Its programs aim to improve hyperhidrosis and sweat awareness, education, research, and advocacy. Visit SweatHelp.org to learn more, to stay up-to-date with related news via the IHhS blog, to search a sweating-focused Physician Finder, and access related podcasts and videos. Connect on Facebook @SweatingStopsHere, Twitter @WeKnowSweat and Instagram @WeKnowSweat. You can also find the International Hyperhidrosis Society on YouTube and wherever you enjoy podcasts.
Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition that affects approximately 4.8% of the population. It manifests as extreme, uncontrollable sweating beyond what’s considered “normal” or necessary as a reaction to heat, exercise or stress. Hyperhidrosis also:
- Causes sweat to drip down elbows, off fingers, into the eyes, and more
- Drenches and damages shoes, clothes, papers, and mainstay tech tools like smartphones
- Arises unexpectedly, often with disabling symptoms that last for hours
- Forces people to develop time-consuming and expensive routines of hiding, avoiding, drying, absorbing, and more – all in an attempt to live a “normal” life
- Leads to sufferers feeling cold, slippery, anxious, or emotionally drained
- Has negative quality-of-life impacts equal to or greater than severe acne & psoriasis
- Increases risk of skin infections by 300%
- Is associated with much higher rates of anxiety & depression
- Is stigmatized while being under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and under-treated
- Indeed, only 1 in 4 hyperhidrosis sufferers is ever diagnosed and fewer are cared for effectively with up-to-date best practices.
But there is hope. Treatment options have improved and expanded in recent years and, by working with a knowledgeable healthcare provider, most sufferers can find significant relief. It starts with awareness-building and seeking help, like what’s available via the International Hyperhidrosis Society at SweatHelp.org.
International Hyperhidrosis Society