The VigilanceVoice


The Terror of Sleeping
On Someone's Sweat

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, June 12--My three-year-old granddaughter is more worried about sleeping on someone's sweat than a dirty nuclear bomb issuing a mist of radioactivity over the city of New York or upon Washington D.C.
       The grandkids slept over the other evening.   We let them sleep in our room because it has a small television and we usually put on some Disney movie for them.  It is also the home of our air conditioner.
      New York apartments are small, quite unlike the nearly 4,000-square foot home we left just over two years ago in Laguna Niguel, California.   Coziness is the key.
       My granddaughter, Sarah, popped one of those "out-of-the-blue" questions to my wife before she went to sleep. 
       "Am I sleeping on G-Pa's sweat, G-Ma?"
       My wife told me she assured  Sara she had just the day before washed the bedding, and that Sarah would be "G-Pa-sweat-free" all night long.
       Sarah smiled trustfully, closed her eyes and went to sleep.
       A child's Terror is far different from an adult's.   Sarah was more concerned with "sleeping in G-Pa's sweat" than about the recent news from the Administration that it had foiled a potential "dirty bomb" being built by Terrorists.

       Fear of sweat ruled over fear of radioactivity.
       But, perhaps the degrees of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency were the same proportions.   If Sarah held a 51% Fear Factor over sleeping in "G-Pa's sweat," and an adult carried a 51% Fear Factor for worrying about a dirty bomb going off and contaminating the air, one might  find little difference between the two.
      I wondered how a young child conjured in her mind the idea of "sweat being bad."   So I Googled it!   That is, I went to my favorite search engine,, and plugged in the word "sweating."

     Up pops a   I dialed it up.
     This is "sweating season" in New York City.  The heat and humidity and lack of wind turns the city of concrete into a virtual sauna.  People here are more worried about heat exhaustion than a "dirty nuclear bomb." revealed some pretty reasonable statistics.   First, the average person loses a little less than a quart of fluids each day, 0.71 liters to be exact, or about three cups of sweat.
     Ah, but the rub comes here.   A big sweater can lose up to 2.51 liters per hour--that's almost three quarts of liquid (2.85 to be accurate), which represents nearly 12 cups of sweat per hour.  Ugggh, I thought.  Did Sarah think I was a "sweat faucet?"
     How the heck my three-year-old grand daughter fathomed the idea of her G-Pa's sweat being her "dirty bomb" is beyond me.   Nevertheless, her fear of "G-Pa's sweat" was as real to her as a deer caught in someone's headlight.  Terrorism, I realize, can take drip like acid on anyone's sense of security. taught me sweat glands are most numerous on the hands and feet. If we get nervous, our hands sweat profusely. (I couldn't relate to sweaty feet, so I took their word for it.)
     Then, to my Terror, I found out about apocrine glands.
     These are "stink glands."   This type of sweat contains proteins and  carbohydrates that when acted upon by the bacteria on the skin takes on an odor.  Now I understood sweaty feet--they stink!
     I read on, garnering far more information than I needed.  I stumbled across a headline, "Excessive Sweating."   It's called diaphoresis or hyperhidrosis.   Some 'over sweaters' who leak more than I do  must resort to surgery to remove some of their sweat glands
(see figure below).  Perhaps, I thought, Sara intuitively knew about diaphoresis.

    I knew sweating could kill.    In Vietnam I  witnessed young men die of heat exhaustion.   But I never considered myself as a "Terrorist sweater" as my grand daughter did.   To her, I was a walking sponge, squishing along, leaving globs of sweating secretions wherever I went.
    What I believed about myself was not important, what Sara thought was.  To her, our bed was full of "sweat cooties" until my wife, a G-Ma of Vigilance, affirmed the bedding was clean.
     The information I downloaded from the web, I thought, would be fun to share with Sara in three-year-old language.  I wanted her to know I wasn't a "Sweat Terrorist," and the only way to convincer would be to describe my "sweat" as "normal sweat."  Plus, throughout life she would be armed with "Sweat Vigilance," able to face its drips and odors with bravado.
      I did get a little nervous preparing for my talk. I could feel my hands sweating.  One of my concerns was body odor.  I don't think I have any, except when I eat too much garlic.   I would tell her G-Pa washes with anti-bacterial soap.   I wanted to quash  her "Sweat Terror."
       I began to laugh at myself.    Here I was focusing my adult attention on the nuclear dirty bomb threat, and my grand daughter was worrying about a few drops of sweat.    It was a reminder to me that a Sentinel of Vigilance must think in terms of his or her audience.  A child's fears are much more basic than an adults.  Her "sweating G-Pa" might just rank up with a "dirty nuclear bomb" threat.  My job was to remove that threat by informing her.
      Recently, our government has splashed headlines about catching or identifying major Terrorist threats to our security.   It seems to focus on the "big bang" theory, thinking the bigger the threat to us all, the more confidence we will have in them to stop any attack.
     What they forget  is little Sara doesn't much give a damn about nuclear attacks (a plus for her parent's Vigilance) as much as she does "Sweat attacks."
     To assure myself I was on the right track, I went back to the Pledge of Vigilance.   I reread it.  It reminded me that Terrorism takes many forms, and that the smallest drop of sweat could become a giant threat to a small child.

     Dealing with it was as important as discussing why people jumped out of buildings on Nine Eleven.  
      So, I've armed myself with sweat charts, sweat information, sweat photos and sweat chemistry information so I can explain to Sara in three-year-old talk why "G-Pa Sweats."
      I have become a "Sweating Grandparent of Vigilance," bent on changing my grand daughters fear of "sweat" into the courage, conviction and ability to understand that "sweating" isn't all bad, not even from her G-Pa.