How long can you hold your breath?

Body Odour

How long can you hold your breath?

Squeezed in a crammed carriage of a Metro or a bus and bundled up in heavy winter clothes, all one needs is a little space to breathe. With temperatures set inside Metros and AC buses to beat the  winter chill, one often observes people dashing towards the doors, getting out at a station prior to their destination, just to catch a fresh breath of air. Why?

Amidst this post-work Metro/bus ride back home, if the sweaty, acrid odour of milling masses around you gets the better of your senses and the muggy atmosphere adds to the claustrophobia with no option but to stand next to your fellow passenger, the only thought that crosses the mind is how in the middle of a cold winter evening can one smell so bad?

It is common knowledge that one’s body odour affects one’s level of confidence. To prevent this very basic of physiological condition from ruining your life and confidence, it is important to know why it happens. Ironically, we live in the age of artificial smells, where deodorants and perfumes have become imperative to our existence. Then, how do we still end up smelling bad as the day progresses? 

Shedding light on Bromhidrosis or body odour, Dr Monica Mahajan, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, explains, “There are two types of sweat glands that exist in our body. One is distributed on the skin and is responsible for temperature control, while the other set is Apocrine gland – mainly found in the armpit, groin and around the breasts.” She adds that “Sweat glands normally produce a fluid which is oily and odourless. It is only when the bacteria decompose these fluids that they produce fatty acids and ammonia which gives the peculiar unpleasant odour to the sweat.” 

So, what are the usual reasons behind excessive sweating? Explaining that these glands develop during puberty, the doctor elucidates, “Some people have larger and numerous sweat glands, compared to others. It has been also noticed that dark skins have an over activity of these glands and there can be a genetic or family tendency towards body odour.”

While we cannot restrict the production of sweat, there are ways to keep its odour in check, reveals the doctor, “Certain food items including onions, garlic, curry, spices and alcohol tend to increase the odour. Preventive measures include maintaining an appropriate level of hygiene and removing sweaty clothes. Even dried sweat on the clothes can continue producing the odour.”

Suggesting some more ways, the doctor advises use of anti-bacterial soaps which reduce bacterial growth, largely responsible for this odour; and aluminium chloride-based anti-perspirants and astringents, which also work in a similar manner. Also, remember that anti-perspirants and deodorants do not cure the problem, they just help mask the odour. So the trick is to maintain thorough hygiene. This simply means keeping the underarms clean and dry, as bacteria have a hard time breeding in dry areas of the body.

Shaving your underarm regularly will help prevent the accumulation of bacteria and can reduce sweat and odour. It is only in extreme cases of Bromhidrosis (body odour) that botox injections and surgical methods including removal of tissue from under the skin or sympathectomy are advised.

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