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Bodily Odors in kids

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One of the most embarrassing things that one can suffer with is bad body odor. Children emit body odor that is not noticeable. Babies and children aged under eight do not usually have an odor. However, teenagers and preteens nearing or entering puberty may have a distinct odor. So if you get a whiff of bad odor from your teen, it could simply be a sign of puberty. However, if your teen has any of these odors, you should pay attention:

Poor hygiene

Poor hygiene is one of the most common causes of body odor in kids. Irregular bathing, not washing the armpits and groin region, can lead to bacterial accumulation and bad odor. If your child refuses to take bath regularly, she might smell. Send her for a bath.

Food induced body odor

Some food you eat has a direct correlation to body odor as their smell seeps through the pores of the skin and generates odor. Red meat has an amino acid derivative called carnitine. Too much of carnitine can create a “fishy” body odor. Milk contains a protein that can take longer to digest than other foods. So excess consumption of dairy products can lead to release of methyl mercaptan and hydrogen sulphide in the body, causing a foul smell to emanate. The chances of body odor due to dairy may be higher if the child is lactose intolerant. Processed foods made from flour, especially those that lack fiber or foods with sugar, onion, garlic and other spices or smelly foods like fish, eggs, onion, garlic and legumes could also give rise to body odor.


Puberty is the phase where young girls and boys attain sexual maturity. One among the key changes that you will notice in a child going through puberty is body odor and this is not a case for concern.


Phenylketonuria or PKU is a metabolic error that a child is born with. Kids with this disorder do not have phenylalanine hydroxylase, an enzyme that is needed to break the essential amino acid called phenylalanine. If PKU is not treated immediately, the child can have a ‘musty’ odor coming from his skin, ear wax, breath and urine. The condition can also cause rashes on the skin, which in turn can result in body odor.


Trimethylaminuria or TMAU is a rare condition that is caused due to abnormal production of the enzyme named flavin. TMAU is a metabolic disorder that prevents the breaking down of the chemical trimethylaminuria into trimethylamine oxide. The odor caused due to TMAU is a pungent, ‘fish-like’ smell, which is why TMAU is also known as the fish odor syndrome.

Kidney and Liver problems

If your kid has a distinct body odor, it could sometimes be due to an underlying medical condition like diabetes, kidney or liver problem or inflammation. For example, people with diabetes could smell something like a rotten apple. If the person has a kidney or a liver problem, he or she could smell like ammonia.

Bad morning breath

If your breath in the morning is bad enough that it makes your partner send you to brush your teeth as soon as you wake up, then you could be dealing with sleep apnea. This is especially true if you brush and floss before going to bed each night. Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder that makes you stop and start breathing periodically throughout the night. This makes your mouth dry, and allows bacteria to breed more easily in your throat. Some of these bacteria even produce a sulphurous gas that makes your breath smell of rotten eggs. If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, be sure to get a sleep test.

Extra-smelly feces

Everyone knows that fecal matter smells bad, however if the smell is especially strong when you go to the bathroom, then it could be indicative of a problem. If you happen to have eaten dairy, then you could be lactose-intolerant. Lactose intolerance arises from the body not producing enough lactase, which is an enzyme that breaks down lactose in the small intestine. When there isn’t enough lactase present, the small intestine sends the lactose in the food you ate straight to your colon, where it ferments and creates a foul odor. Some 65% of all people have problems digesting dairy, so check with your doctor to see if you need to make dietary changes.

Strong-smelling urine

If you have just eaten asparagus or been out for a few alcoholic beverages, then your urine could smells a little. However, if you’ve done neither of those things and your urine has a strong, nasty smell, then it could mean that you have a urinary tract infection. If the smell is coupled with a burning sensation, a dark, cloudy color and a frequent need for urination, then you should definitely see a doctor.

Fruity breath

This odor problem doesn’t actually involve a bad smell, however it could be indicative of something more serious. If you happen to have fruity or sweet-smelling breath, then it could be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when the body runs low on insulin, resulting in a spike in blood sugar. This is more common in people with Type 1 diabetes than in people who have Type 2 diabetes. When the body doesn’t have enough energy, it breaks down fatty acids for fuel. One of those acids is called acetone, which gives your breath a fruity smell.

Stinky feet

It’s understandable to have smelly feet after a long run without socks on during a hot summer afternoon, but it’s a whole different matter if your feet stink constantly, regardless of any deodorizations you take. Constantly smelly feet are a sign of athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is caused by a combination of fungus and bacteria that eats away at the skin between your toes and on your feat. What’s worse is that athlete’s foot can be spread to other parts of the body. Athlete’s foot can be cleared up easily with medications such as Lotrimin or Tinactin. If you have it, just make sure you take care of it as soon as you can, because it could lead to more complicated skin conditions such as cellulitis.

Tips To Prevent Body Odor In Kids

  • Maintaining personal hygiene. If your child is aged eight or less, teach them about hygiene and help them be clean. If you have a preteen, talk to him/her about the importance of hygiene.
  • Make your kids wash their body every day, including the groin, armpits, and feet.
  • Make sure your child wears clean clothes every day. Discourage them from wearing the clothes for extended period of time.
  • Check if their clothes are clean and smell fresh. Sometimes, wet weather and moisture can make clothes smell musty even after they are washed. Dry the clothes under the sun and use a natural perfumes to make clothes smell fresh.
  • Ensure that the kid’s clothes and shoes are completely dry before they wear them.
  • Drinking plenty of water helps in eliminating the toxins in the body and reduces the chances of body odor.
  • If your children drinks milk, replace it with organic, soy or almond milk. That may help at times.
  • Avoiding certain foods that cause body odor could solves some of the problems.
  • Including aromatic herbs like sage and rosemary and increase the intake of green leafy vegetables. The chlorophyll in the plants is a natural body cleanser.

If your kid has bad body odor in spite of all the above, seek medical help immediately.

Author: TxNaturalPediatrics

By training, I am a American Board Certified Pediatrician. But in my younger years I grew up with natural alternatives. As a mom I have tried to incorporate both for my kids and it has worked wonders. And finally, as I am studying natural & alternative medicines, I realize the beauty and wisdom of living closer to earth. Hence in my practice I integrate both...for acute ailments I follow American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation but for simple and/or chronic conditions I prefer natural alternatives. In western training we were raised to think that "health is the absence of symptoms and problems". But eastern sensibilities has educated me that "Health is state that allows one to use the full capabilities of their body, mind and intellect. Therefore, healthy living is a balanced state of well being: physically, mentally, socially and spiritually." This implies that healing is not a "one-pill-fits-all", but a personalized experience.

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