As adults, we are used to getting sweaty when we exercise, when it's hot outside and even when we are nervous. However, you may be surprised that your toddler's sweat glands function in basically the same manner as adult, minus a few smelly differences. Always seek medical help if you are worried about your toddler's sweat gland development, but learning the basics may help you to distinguish between normal and abnormal toddler sweating habits.
Types of Sweat Glands
Humans are born with sweat glands, but they are not all created equal. Eccrine sweat glands are located mostly on the soles of the feet, forehead, palms and cheeks. In addition, your toddler will have apocrine sweat glands located in the axilla and urogenital areas. Eccrine sweat glands produce a clear and odorless fluid, while apocrine glands produce a thicker -- though still odorless -- fluid until it encounters bacterial decomposition.
Toddler sweat lacks the stereotypical stinky smell of teenagers because it is not until puberty that some eccrine glands turn into apocrine glands. These apocrine glands produce seven times more sweat than the eccrine gland, resulting in more interaction with bacteria as it exits the body -- and more odor. Though apocrine glands are present in toddlers, they do not generally begin functioning until puberty, so toddlers sweat through the less odorous eccrine glands.
Sweating is a normal bodily function designed to cool the body in a process called thermoregulation, or more simply, heat regulation. Thermoregulation is an important process in active toddlers, and hydration is necessary so that the body is able to sweat properly to keep your toddler's temperature at the correct rate for health. When a toddler becomes overheated, expect him to sweat more in order to lower his body temperature, just as sweat production will be significantly less in lower temperatures.
If your toddler is excessively sweating or has sweat with a strong odor, contact your pediatrician as these symptoms can indicate a problem. Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can be linked to endocrine, dermatologic, neurologic and cardiac systems, as well as to environmental, drug and oncologic problems. Bromhidrosis, or excessively odorous sweat in a toddler, is usually caused by excessive bacterial growth. Excessive sweating at night can indicate that your toddler is overdressed or the house is too hot, so consider making changes to your child's pajamas or the thermostat to see if there is a simpler cause for excessive sweating. No matter the cause, excessive sweating can also lead to dehydration, so be sure to push fluids.