Ask the doctor: Why do I sweat too much?

What you need to know:

  • When one drinks alcohol, sweating may be increased since alcohol on its own causes our outer blood vessels (of the skin) to dilate.

Whenever I take beer, I sweat too much, especially on the face. What could be the cause and is there anything I can do to stop the sweats? Adyeeri

Dear Adyeeri, 
Humans are called warm blooded because their bodies are always at a warm temperature of around 37 degrees centigrade and temperature is kept almost constant (regulated) mainly by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The body primarily makes heat by breaking down its glucose or fat and of course, when one exercises, heat is generated.

The heat we produce is a form of energy that enables body processes run properly and continuously. Usually, when the temperature tries to go above normal, we sweat, among other ways, so that we can cool down and keep the temperature regular. When we sleep at night, much as we do not produce heat through exercise, the heat made through other ways still requires to be regulated since this may still be too much for the body even though the body is resting. Resting does not utilise much energy requiring some excess heat to be lost and this the body does through sweating.

When one drinks alcohol, sweating may be increased since alcohol on its own causes our outer blood vessels (of the skin) to dilate, bringing more blood to the skin and the contained sweat glands resulting in more sweating. Therefore, when people start sweating a lot because of taking alcohol, they may be developing a drinking problem which unfortunately, may then be difficult to stop requiring a medical person specialised in treating alcohol problems to intervene. 

Drinking problems such as alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence may cause a person to restart drinking after stopping due to the nasty effects of not drinking (alcohol withdrawal problems), which include confusion, headache and sweating too much, among others. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms go away once one resumes taking alcohol.

You might be worried that your kind of sweating mainly affecting the head could be unusual but sweating after drinking alcohol is only natural. 

Though the best way to stop head sweating due to alcohol is avoiding taking alcohol, it is necessary to visit your doctor to rule out and treat medical causes of your kind of sweating including infections such as tuberculosis or HIV, problems with the thyroid gland and some cancers.