It beat off such contenders as ‘What is the meaning of life?’ ‘Is there a God?’ and ‘Does my bum look big in this?’
The answer to that No,1 question is that fish actually do sweat, and the reason nobody has ever noticed this previously, is because the little beads of perspiration are quickly diluted by the surrounding watery environment.
They say the proof of the pudding can be seen in any aquarium, where, on a daily basis, hundreds of thousands of people stare intently at glass-walled fish tanks, trying to work out whether or not the fish inside are working up a sweat.
Unfortunately, the water surrounding the fish makes it nigh on impossible to spot an overheated fish, even using thermal imaging equipment.
As entertaining as that might be, the truth is a little more believable. Fish are cold-blooded creatures and don’t have sweat glands, unlike us humans, and as you may have gathered by now, I have a particular interest in this subject.
I’m not the only one confused though. Water loss through skin - that’s sweating to you and me - was recognised by the ancient Greeks and back then they didn’t know much about the process either.
There is evidence that the Irish believed there were benefits to be gained from sweating as far back as the early 1600s and they used sweat houses to help treat the sick.
The forerunner to saunas, these Irish sweat houses were typically simple structures built into hillsides or riverbanks and set in remote locations near a water source. They were mostly used in the west of Ireland.
Rocks were held together with clay and sod to create a domed structure with a single low entrance, similar in appearance to an igloo. Turf or wood was lit inside the sweat house while the entrance and roof vents were blocked.
After a few hours, smoke would be released, the embers swept out, and a naked person would crawl into the stifling space and sweat for as long as they could bear.
Eventually, they would emerge to cleanse and cool themselves in the nearby stream. Sometimes, their health condition improved.
Ronan O’Connell wrote about the unearthing of Ireland’s mysterious naked sweat houses, and from talking to various experts he found they were mostly found in locations where modern medical facilities were few and far between and were commonly used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, fevers and respiratory conditions. They didn’t always work though.
As a sweaty male, I can testify to this, and when I die, I will donate my sweat glands to science, and I bet they will never have seen the likes of them.
The name for excessive sweating is hyperhidrosis and it describes sweating that is not triggered by a rise in temperature or physical activity. Primary hyperhidrosis may be at least partly hereditary, and that makes sense because my son is following in my armpits.
Prince Andrew, on the other hand, has no such problem. He was reportedly asked to produce medical evidence to prove he was unable to sweat as part of a civil case against him in New York, after he stated that he couldn’t physically perspire. That claim was made in an interview with the BBC about allegations of sexual assault against him.
In 2019, Andrew contested Virginia Giuffre’s claim that, while she and the prince were allegedly dancing at a London nightclub, he was sweaty. He refuted this recollection by claiming that he had a “peculiar medical condition” whereby he physically could not sweat.
Andrew said he suffered what he described as an overdose of adrenaline during his time as a soldier in the Falklands War when he was shot at, and that made it almost impossible for him to sweat. Many experts have cast doubt on that theory, and I’m glad they did because I might have been tempted to put it to the test. Risking death for a drier body is a bit extreme though.
I’m not a fan of formal occasions either, because as soon as I put on a suit, I feel hot and uncomfortable, and I know a sweat fest won’t be far behind. It doesn’t usually last that long, just long enough to cause damage.
We were collected at the hotel by coach in the morning and taken to the police station, which was only about ten minutes away.
As soon as I got on the coach, I could feel a trickle running down the back of my neck and by the time we arrived, I was in trouble.
I was wearing a light blue shirt but by then, it had turned a dark colour. As we were about to enter a meeting room, one of the party approached me and asked if I was having a heart attack. It stopped as quickly as it started, but by then I was soaked and uncomfortable. And the day was just starting.
There might be a cure though.
Apparently, apple cider vinegar applied directly to the skin helps to remove bacteria and also to close up pores.
If you sweat profusely, drinking a vinegar concoction or applying it directly to the sweaty area each night can help reduce sweat.
Drinking two teaspoons before breakfast, lunch and dinner is also recommended.
I think I’d rather go to war.