Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis) in Young Children

What are the Causes of Extreme Sweating in Younger Children?

Baby sleeping
What are the causes of excessive sweating in young children?. Arthur Tilley/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Are you concerned that your child is sweating too much? Unlike older children and teens, extreme sweating in younger children is not common and may sometimes be a symptom of an underlying problem. Let's take a look at what you should know about excessive sweating in children.

Excessive Sweating in Children

Excessive sweating in preteens and teens is fairly common. These kids often have sweaty palms, sweaty feet, sweaty armpits and/or excessive facial sweating.

In contrast, excessive sweating in young children is not very common and can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. If your baby, toddler, or elementary age child appears to sweat heavily, it's important to make an appointment to see your pediatrician.

Symptoms of Excessive Sweating in Younger Children

You may notice sweating on our child's face and arms while in a comfortable environment, or may note instead, that you child sweats and soaks through her clothes. Certainly this type of sweating is normal if the heat and humidity in your home is high. Children are not just little adults, but you can often get an idea on whether or not your child should be sweating based on whether or not you are sweating yourself.

Types of Excess Sweating

There are two different types of excessive sweating or "hyperhidrosis" to use the medical term. These include:

  • Generalized excessive sweating - Generalized sweating occurs all over the body, and may result in clothing becoming soaked.
  • Local excessive sweating - Local sweating may occur in only one region, such as in the armpits, or only on the face and neck.

Excess sweating can also be divided in a similar way by cause:

  • Primary hyperhidrosis refers to a condition in which there is sweating only in the armpits, palms of the hands and feet, and affects between one and three percent of the population.
  • Secondary hyperhidrosis refers to excess sweating that is usually generalized and is caused by an underlying medical condition such as a thyroid disorder.

Possible Causes of Excess Sweating in Babies, Toddlers, and Younger Children

The possible causes of excess sweating in young children span the spectrum from normal to serious.

A common and easy to treat cause of excessive sweating is over-bundling or overdressing your child, or keeping your home too warm. In general, infants should be dressed similar to adults in the home, yet many parents bundle their children to a much greater degree than they bundle themselves.

Other "normal" causes of hyperhidrosis include anxiety, a fever, or physical activity. With a young child, however, you are likely familiar with the amount of sweating that is "typical" when she is active.

Some of the more serious causes of excess sweating in young children include:

  • Infections - Any type of infection whether mild or serious may lead to excess sweating. Sometimes low-grade or "smoldering" infections such as tuberculosis may have only sweating as a symptom.
  • Hyperthyroidism - Hyperthyroidism may cause excess sweating and sweating may be the only symptom. With hyperthyroidism your child may also experience weight loss, a rapid heart beat, and anxiety.
  • Diabetes - Excessive sweating can be a symptom of diabetes. A child with diabetes may also have increased thirst, increased urination, and weight loss. Their sweat may carry an odor which smells like acetone (finger nail polish remover.)
  • Other metabolic and hormonal disorders.
  • Hypertension - High blood pressure in children may appear as excess sweating.
  • Congestive heart failure - Infants with congestive heart failure usually have other symptoms in addition to excess sweating. They may tire easily with feedings, have a rapid respiratory rate, cough frequently, and have poor weight gain.
  • Prescription drugs - Some prescription medications can cause generalized sweating.

    Diagnosis and Evaluation Excessive Sweating in Young Children

    If your child appears to be sweating excessively it's important to see your pediatrician. Excess sweating does not mean that your child has a serious medical condition. Many children who have excessive sweating will be found to be healthy on exam. Yet since hyperhidrosis can be an early symptoms of several conditions it's best to have it checked out.

    The first step in evaluating excessive sweating is to look at the growth and development of your child. Even if a child is growing at a normal pace, gaining weight, and reaching developmental milestones, further evaluation is usually recommended if your baby or young child is sweating a lot.

    Your pediatrician will want to carefully examine your child and will likely run some blood tests.

    Treatment of Excessive Sweating

    When a child has generalized hyperhidrosis, the approach is to find and treat the underlying cause of the sweating rather than to treat the sweating (the symptom) itself.

    For children with localized hyperhidrosis there are a number of options ranging from topical preparations, to anticholinergic medications to procedures such as iontophoresis and Botox.

    For preteens and teens, treatments may help with sweaty feet and the consequent aroma.

    Bottom Line on Hyperhidrosis in Children

    Unlike older children, excess sweating in younger children is uncommon, at least when they are not overdressed or in a hot, humid environment. If your baby, toddler, or elementary age child has excess sweating it does not mean, however, that she has something seriously wrong with her. Instead, it is signal to talk to your pediatrician in order to make sure you are not missing a medical condition and receiving proper treatment.

    Sources:

    Dagash, H., McCaffrey, S., Mellor, K., Roycroft, A., and I. Helbing. Tap Water Iontophoresis in the Treatment of Pediatric Hyperhidrosis. Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 2017. 52(2):309-312.

    Grabell, D., and A. Hebert. Current and Emerging Medical Therapies for Primary Hyperhidrosis. Dermatology and Therapy. 2017. 7(1):25-36.

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