Schvitzing my way through Europe: Facts on sweating and a few vacation photos.
By elaineR.N. on August 12, 2013
I recently came back from a great trip to Spain and Italy with lasting memories of family, food, breathtakingly beautiful sites and schvitz. Schvitz is a Yiddish word for perspiration and is mostly used when the sweat is excessive. Actually, it seemed to be the right word to use, as my stepson and daughter-in-law to be, who were with us, replaced their use of the word ‘sweat” with schvitz to describe their extreme perspiration due to the heat. Did me proud!
After dealing with the July and August European hot air, I made a very strong commitment to never ever again visit Europe during the summer. In previous years, we traveled during the spring and fall. Huge difference in temperature in the summer, as we faced oppressively hot weather during the day. And, you could have cooked that proverbial egg on the sidewalk and I am not exaggerating in any way. The temperature on most days was in the high 90 degrees F and when it wasn’t in the high 90s, it was in the 100s. Yep, schvitzing was what I did from the time I started walking outside to tour until I returned at the end of the day. It took about 30 minutes of an air-conditioned environment before I stopped. It wasn’t a pretty “I am glowing” kind of sweat, it was a drip in your eyes hair frizzing out and my clothes are all damp and it shows schvitz.
While annoying and uncomfortable, perspiring was actually beneficial to our health. Why? Because, sweat is how your body cools itself. Actually, if you don’t sweat enough, it could be life threatening. Sweat, produced in eccrine or sweat glands, is a clear and salty liquid, which you probably know if sweat has ever dripped down your face into your eyes causing irritation. It consists of mostly of water, as well as sodium chloride, and other electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium, along with body waste. When the body temperature increases, the sympathetic nervous system activates the eccrine glands, located deep in the skin, to produce sweat to help reduce the body’s temperature. Mostly, people sweat under their arms, on their feet and the palms of their hands. However, perspiration can happen out of pores anywhere on their body. Some women complain of increased sweating in the vulvar area – or crotchal area (my word and not medically correct) when they are hot. Also to know is that certain medical conditions, like low blood sugar, menopause, fevers or infections can increase sweating.
When our vacation first began, during lunch I would have a glass of Sangria. After all, I was in Spain and on holiday! Big mistake, as alcohol alters the way your body manages temperature regulation and increases sweating. Caffeine can have an impact too. While I didn’t eliminate coffee, I wisely gave up any “adult” refreshment until dinner. Along with that, spicy foods can contribute and just the fact that we were exercising more then usual caused increased perspiration.
According to the National Institute of Health, there are more than two and a half million eccrine sweat glands all over the body. No doubt that every one of mine was working overtime! No need to put on my elaineR.N. white lab coat, support hose and oxford shoes to instruct further, as the NIH has an excellent overview on sweating: NIH sweating summary
Sweating too much can lead to dehydration, which can be serious. If you begin experiencing dry lips and tongue, muscle cramping, a lack of urination and no energy, you need to take action and drink water. Also, eating a banana can help if potassium loss is a concern for you. If you have chest pain or pressure and if sweating lasts for an excessive amount of time, you should contact your health care provider immediately.
I found that the wearing clothes, which helped to wick sweat away, was more comfortable then having cotton clothes wet and clinging to my body. Unfortunately, most of what I brought was cotton, so clinging clothes happened often. I carried around a paper towel or other kind of schmata (another Yiddish word; this one meaning rag.) to wipe my face and then pitch. Often, I poured water on my schmata and used it to wipe my face off and cool myself down. Helpful, actually.