How do people who can't sweat cope with the heat?

5:15 PM, Jul 6, 2012   |    comments
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By Sharon Stevens

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - The record-setting hot weather causes most of us to perspire. And as sweat evaporates, the skin cools down. But what happens if you can't sweat?

A Hazelwood family has to live with those concerns every day.

The disease, called ectodermal dysplasias, is a rare disorder. Thousands of people have to take extra precautions to stay cool and to stay alive.

Four-year old Zane Higgins loves to play outside with his little sister in the backyard of their Hazelwood home. But when Zane's ears start to turn red, that's a warning sign; it's time to seek cooling.

Both Zane and his mom are affected by ectodermal dysplasias, a genetic disorder that causes defects in hair, teeth, nails and sweat glands.

Zane does not sweat at all; his mother sweats once or twice a year.

"I was made fun of a lot as a kid, but my mom taught me that people make fun becaue they don't understand," said Virginia Higgins, Zane's mother. "So if you make them understand, they won't make fun."

The family shared photos taken in Mascoutah, Illinois last month at the annual "Don't Sweat It Walk" to raise money and awareness about the ailment.

While there's no cure or medical remedy, a protein is being tested on mice and dogs that could make a difference in the future.

On a hot day like the ones our city has been experiencing recently, you'll find some people in the park, but for the Higgins family, a trip to park or even the backyard requires a lot of planning and forethought.

"We use a cooling vest for him. If it's very hot outside we use spray bottles. If we're going to be out for an extended period of time, we wet our clothing," said Virginia Higgins.

Here's how to reach the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias:
P.O. Box 114, 410 East Main Street
Mascoutah, IL 62258-0114.
Phone: 618-566-2020
Web site:


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