Standing on the edge of a plank, a canopy of trees 150 feet below me, a rickety old train trestle behind me, the wind howling menacingly about me and New Zealand all around me, I was about to attempt a bungee jump. No problem, I thought. No problem. But that was 27 minutes earlier when I had first inched my way to the edge of the plank. While I maintained to Bing, the Kiwi operator of this death trap, that I was simply enjoying the view, I was, in fact, attempting to overcome my body’s preservation instinct and toss basic common sense to the wind that was whipping wildly about me. Every fibre in my being was preventing me from hurtling myself into what it perceived as certain death. Torrents of sweat dripped from my face like a lawyer in a confessional booth. My palms were pathetic puddles while my armpits sprang leaks that would make a plumber blush.
I turned to the operator and inquired, “Does anyone ever back out at this stage?” His response, “All the time, mate, but I must say I’ve never seen a Canadian back out.”
Our bodies contain two types of sweat glands. Some poor souls spend every day looking like I did on that New Zealand death plank (minus the tears and usually not clinging to a post.) Excessive sweating is an unsightly and uncomfortable concern that can now be treated with methods other than wiping palms on pant legs or wearing thick thweaters. Heavy sweaters don heavy sweaters to hide the artesian well under their arms.
Eccrine sweat glands are found in the palms, soles, upper lip, chest, back and face and the armpits (axilla). These temperature regulators prevent us from fanning ourselves with our ears (Prince Charles excepted) or panting like a jackal in July. Apocrine glands are found around hair follicles in our axilla, scalp and groin. Their purpose is to make us humble. They do their best work at the behest of the sympathetic nervous system, our body’s “fight or flight” preservation system. Women of course never sweat. They just glisten, while men sweat like greased pigs.
Should you be one who suffers hyperhidrosis (medical term meaning, “sweats small saltwater seas like Shaq in a Swedish sauna”) then several options are now open to you.
1. Drysol, a 25% aluminum preparation can be applied to either the palms or the pits at night. After applying, wrap the area up with plastic foodwrap (remove pizza first) or use vinyl gloves. This needs to be done three times the first week then only once a week. The aluminum metal salts block the opening of the sweat glands.
2. Botox, now touted as a cure for everything from migraines to ugliness, has been used for both palm and armpit hyperhidrosis. Botox can shut down axillary sweating for up to two years but for palms it only lasts a few months at best.
3. Iontophoresis is a procedure whereby an electric current and tap water is applied to the affected area. This does not mean getting into the bath with a toaster but it does use a galvanic device you can purchase. Using it daily for one week on the palms, soles or axilla, dryness can last for up to a month.
4. A surgical procedure known as endoscopic sympathectomy can permanently eliminate palmar hyperhidrosis with a very high success rate, and about 70% success rate for axillary. Through a device known as a thoracoscope, the surgeon cauterizes bundles of nerves called the sympathetic ganglia and viola, dry as a desert drought.
No doubt you’re wondering if I actually survived the bungee jump or if I died tangled in the top of a tropical tree. Searching for any excuse I thought about turning around and asking if my ruptured appendix or ovary precluded me from jumping but my Canadian pride was sufficiently challenged and I leapt to all but certain death. In fact, I survived, but I’m sweating just thinking about it.