Why do palms sweat?

We all get them before exams, and especially near results. We understand that sweaty palms signify nervousness, but very few people know the science behind it. Sweaty palms are a normal phenomenon, and can be explained by the biology of our bodies.
We have two types of sweat glands: Apocrine and Eccrine. Apocrine glands are located at places which have high hair follicle density e.g. head, arms. They secrete a thick sweat based on fatty acid and proteins, which when metabolized by bacteria, caused body odor. Eccrine glands are located at parts with little or no follicle density. Our palms fall in this category.

The purpose of sweat is to cool down the body’s temperature. Early science tells us that evaporation causes cooling, and sweat is therefore the body’s coolant. Whenever our body experiences temperature fluctuations, or high blood pressure, it releases sweat to cool the body and bring it to normalcy.

So we now understand the function of sweat and how sweat is secreted, but how does nervousness come into this? It is our sympathetic nervous system which is at play here. This system control pupil dilation, heartbeat and sweat glands. When we get nervous, we tend to make our nervous system act up, which in turns simulates our sweat glands to produce more sweat. Because the palms have the most number of sweat glands present, we tend to observe the most sweat on them. Sweat on our palms is often matched by sweat on our soles, which have an equally large number of sweat glands.

Sweaty palms are basically the body’s reaction to your hyperactive nervous system. The calmer you are, the less sweaty your hands will be. Next time, when you have sweaty hands, take a moment to collect yourself and observe the difference!

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