A man is only as happy as his self-confidence will allow him to be.This is something that Martin knows all too well. Growing up, he thought it was normal that this hands were always wet and he would have to keep wiping them down. After all, his dad always seemed to have a sweaty face. But his friends in school soon brought it to his attention that he was far from normal. That he was unusually sweaty; and the taunting began.
“My hands would look like they were dripping water. When it came to playing and holding hands no one wanted to hold my hands and they could even shout in protest. And so I had to avoid playing and find excuses to be on my own,” Martin says.
It wasn’t just his hands. Even his feet would sweat so much, causing the moisture and the warmth in his shoes to give rise to a bad odour.
“No one wanted to sit next to me in class. My shoes would smell so bad that I started wearing two pairs of socks; a cotton pair and the school pair. This would soak up the sweat and my shoes would remain dry.”
To date, he will wear nothing but cotton socks. In high school, the teenager couldn’t keep up with taking notes in class. Any attempt would leave the notebook wet from sweat and so he would have to copy the lessons at night; when the temperatures were cooler and sweating less intense.
“I couldn’t interact with the girls either, as it was embarrassing to always end up looking a sweaty mess. The excess sweating also downed my confidence. Even in church, I couldn’t hold hands. I once held a man’s hand during prayers and as soon as the prayers ended, he wiped his hands with a handkerchief and sanitised them immediately. That felt horrible,” he says.
It was when he was older he decided to find out what he could do to remedy his situation.
“At one time I was told that I had typhoid or that I was experiencing a drug reaction. Later, after loads of research and hospital visits, I learnt that I had hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis, he would soon learn, is the abnormally excessive sweating that’s not necessarily related to heat or exercise. One may sweat so much that it soaks through their clothes or drips off their hands. Besides disrupting normal daily activities, this type of heavy sweating can cause social anxiety and embarrassment to someone.
The art of sweat-less days
The doctor prescribed him some oral medication to stop the sweating but the drugs caused an adverse reaction and he had to discontinue use. He has however learnt to manage it over time.
“I use clinical-strength antiperspirants and topical treatments for my hands. I also discovered Carpe lotion that I use on my feet. This helps me manage the sweat every day.”
He doesn’t have to shower frequently because with the topical treatments he can go for more than 12 hours without sweating.
Since hyperhidrosis is not dependent on weather and even in chilling weather he will still be sweating, he has to choose his clothing carefully to avoid the embarrassing sweat stains.
“I wear black a lot because of that. And since cotton shirts are very expensive, I wear a lot of dark-coloured breathable polyester fabric t-shirts. They work fine,” he says.
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He always carries three handkerchiefs in his pocket. One for his face, another for his hands and the last one to wipe the surfaces he touches.
“Sweating like I do dehydrates you. So I am keen on my water intake and I will always take the window seat in a matatu.”
Even his diet hasn’t been spared from adjustments.
“After having issues with my blood cholesterol, I went vegan. This, I have read, also helps me avoid producing sweat with an offensive odour.”
But sweat or no sweat, the 33-year-old isn’t about to be stigmatised by a condition that is now a part of him. And that’s what led him to create the Hyperhidrosis Awareness Kenya. The support group holds the hands of those dealing with the condition. It also creates awareness of the condition as most Kenyans tend to stigmatise those who function differently.
“I have lost a job and relationships because of it. This negative perception, in turn, makes those with hyperhidrosis self-conscious about their sweating by avoiding contact or engaging socially with others, be it at work or at play. So if I can do something to help them feel less alone, I will.”