What causes body odor in kids?

When your body’s temperature rises, sweat glands release fluids that cool you down before they evaporate. Bacteria living on our skin break down this sweat into acids that give off the not-so-great smell we call body odor. While the idea of bacteria living on our skin can sound scary, it’s harmless. Sometimes bacteria are helpful. It just doesn’t feel that way when we have to deal with body odor.

Body odor is entirely normal and a part of being human. Everyone gets smelly, and everyone has bacteria on their skin. This process is natural and not something to be ashamed of. However, it’s important to get body odor under control. No one wants a highly unpleasant smell up their nose all day. While these smells can be persistent, you may find that your body odor is more noticeable in different situations.

When Will I Get Body Odor?

Typically, body odor is most common when you’re exercising, you’re stressed, or you’re hot. It occurs mainly in places like your armpits, genitals, and feet. While there are two types of sweat glands, body odor typically comes from the apocrine glands that are only found on the parts of the body with hair. These glands produce sweat that is high in protein, which makes it easier to be broken down. No sweat from your body has an odor. It is only the interaction between sweat and bacteria that causes a smell.

When you don’t grow hair in places like your armpit, body odor is less noticeable, such as before puberty. Remember, apocrine glands are attached to hair follicles. When you get older and your body becomes hairier, you need to change your routine to ensure you are clean to avoid smelling.

How Can I Prevent Body Odor?

There are a few important actions to take to keep yourself and others from smelling your body odor. First, keep the area clean and dry. Consider wearing deodorant. Deodorant limits the presence of bacteria on your skin. If you’d like shaving or waxing, this area may help too.

You may also want to do something about smelly feet. Because we spend so much time wearing socks and shoes, sweat from our feet doesn’t have anywhere to go, meaning our bacteria has much more to break down. However, unless your feet are bare, the smell isn’t usually an issue. Still, many of us take off our shoes in our homes, so it’s important to remember to clean your feet every day. It can be easy to forget to wash them when you shower since you spend the whole time standing. Wearing breathable clothes and socks can also prevent sweat from getting trapped on your body.

If you feel like you’re more sweaty than other people, there’s likely no need to worry. People naturally sweat more or less based on genetics alone. If you’re overweight or stressed out, you may also sweat more. However, if you seem to sweat excessively or not at all, or if there are any unusual changes, make sure to check in with your doctor just in case something else is going on.

In most cases, once you get into a good routine of showering well and wearing deodorant, body odor is a worry of the past. Remember, it’s nothing to be embarrassed by. Everyone gets it!

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About Dr. Dina Kulik MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dr. Dina Kulik completed her Pediatrics Residency and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Dina is one of Canada’s leading child health media experts, providing child health information through television, radio, print media, and via her blog DrDina.ca. Above all, Dina’s greatest joy is her family, and being the mom of four crazy boys.

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