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Can You Drink Your Own Sweat?

As a survival tactic, it ranks even lower than drinking your own piss

As we enter that magical time of year when your underwear glues itself to your butt with the determination of an affectionate barnacle, we’re taking a closer look at sweat. What is it? What does it want? From sweatshops and anxiety to the literal drippy stuff itself, this week is all about the perspiration. Now let’s get sweaty.

In 2006, famed survival instructor Bear Grylls was shown drinking his own piss to avoid dehydration on international television. By 2010, memes had made the moment legendary, cementing piss drinking as the go-to solution to, well, just about everything (fun fact: It’s actually not a great survival tactic).

Obviously, most people would agree that drinking your own piss is undesirable, even in catastrophic situations. Which is why, in preparation for the off-chance that I somehow end up stranded on a desert island (or just next to a freeway, running away from coyotes), I’m exploring the validity of another option: Drinking your own sweat, which seems slightly less disgusting.

For some real insight, I reached out to Angela Ballard, registered nurse and communications director for the International Hyperhidrosis Society. Here’s what she had to say about drinking sweat in survival situations: “The practical aspect of collecting enough to actually drink aside, sweat is composed almost completely of water and salt,” Ballard says. “So it should be okay to drink in small quantities.”

Woo-hoo! I’m the next Bear Grylls and a survival genius! Oh wait…

But it wouldn’t be recommended,” Ballard continues.

What a pisser.

As for why, it’s because when you’re on the verge of dying from dehydration, collecting enough sweat to keep you alive would probably do more harm than good. “If one were to drink sweat, ideally you’d bathe before collecting it from your skin, since your skin has bacteria on it that mixes with the sweat,” Ballard explains (adding that bathing presumably isn’t an option, since you’re out of water, hence that fact that you’re considering drinking your own sweat). “Also, you might want to drink the sweat immediately, before any bacteria from your skin has time to grow and multiply in the sweat.”

Collecting sweat can go wrong for several other reasons, too. “First, if you’re dehydrated, you won’t be sweating much,” Ballard says. “Second, if your body is taxed by attempting to survive, adding the task of collecting sweat, if you’re sweating at all, isn’t a good use of precious energy. Third, if your body’s under strain, giving your internal filtration system the task of processing a sweat drink also isn’t going to be helpful.”

Sounds like we’re drinking piss tonight, boys!