How are sweating and body odor treated?

Treatments for excessive sweating and body odor depend on the underlying cause, which a doctor can determine through a physical exam and testing. General treatments include:

  • Keep the skin clean by taking a daily bath or shower.
  • Regularly wash clothing, and wear clean clothes.
  • Limit spicy foods and garlic in the diet, which can increase body odor. The same may be true of a diet high in red meats.
  • Use a topical antiperspirant, which works by pulling sweat back into the sweat glands. When the body receives a signal that the sweat glands are full, sweat production decreases. These include over-the-counter as well as prescription antiperspirants.
  • Keep the armpits shaved so that sweat evaporates more quickly and does not have as much time to interact with bacteria.
  • Wear clothing made of natural fibers (wool, cotton or silk) that allow the skin to breathe.
  • A treatment called iontophoresis can help with sweaty hands and feet. The affected areas are placed in water for about 20 to 40 minutes, and a low-voltage current is sent through the water. At first, 2 to 3 treatments per week are needed. After about 6 to 10 treatments, the sweat glands will temporarily shut down. Maintenance treatments are then used anywhere from once a week to once a month.
  • Small injections of botulinum toxin in the armpits can temporarily block a chemical that promotes sweating.
  • Prescription medicines may be used to prevent sweating. This treatment should be used carefully because the body may not have the ability to cool itself when needed.
  • Surgery can remove sweat glands from under the arms or prevent nerve signals from reaching the sweat glands. The latter type of surgery is called a sympathectomy.
  • Use of a hand-held device that emits electromagnetic waves can destroy sweat glands under the arms.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/09/2018.


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