Sweat gets a bad rap.

We're always jumping to conclusions about loan officers with clammy hands, politicians with glistening upper lips and insurance salesman with wet blotches down their shirt-fronts. We are mortified if people glimpse the same quirks in us.

As a consequence, we squander our summers in the bathroom with sprays, sticks and powders when we could be out in the sun having fun. We've even devised a surgical procedure -- a snip here and a snip there of certain nerves in the neck -- by which people with sweaty palms need never sweat again. This is crazy.

Now that the heat's on, the knee-jerk sweat-haters would do well to take another look. Because sweat isn't bad; sweat is good.

Ever hear the expression, "work up a good sweat" and "sweat out the poisons"? Ever wonder why some folks rave about saunas and hot tubs" Sweat is your friend.

It should be cause for celebration, not consternation, yet it's awash in a pool of wrongheaded notions. For instance, most people think sweat smells. Sweat doesn't smell. Bacteria, attacking sweat, smell. That's not sweat's fault.

Most people don't appreciate that all of sweat is divided into two parts: apocrine sweat, which comes only from the nether regions and has no discernible purpose, and eccrine sweat, the real thing. Mainly water with a dash of salt, eccrine sweat gushes from 3 million glands below the epidermis to compensate for heat and, on occasion, mental stress -- just oozing your cares away.

Moreover, the eccrine sweat gland is one of the most energy-efficient engines known to man. An elegant little number, just a coil and a duct, it can pump, on a good day, 40 times its weight in excess moisture. The eccrine glands all over your body can produce about 10 quarts of sweat daily.

Dr. Richard L. Dobson, one of the nation's foremost experts on sweat can't say enough about those eccrine glands: "They're fascinating creatures. Biologically, they are the most distinctive human attribute, because man is the only animal who uses them to regulate body temperature."

Dobson, chairman of the University of South Carolina's department of dermatology, says the gland function by burning a molecule of glucose, which produces 38 molecules of a phosphorous compound, which in turn creates enough energy to move 114 sodium ions to the surface of the skin. Along for the ride go 40,000 water molecules, filling up your pores with something warm and nice.

It's a miracle of nature. That alone should make you feel good all over.