Question for Dr. Leia: My 5 year old has the worst body odor under her arms. I don’t understand how it can be so bad in a little girl & so young. This has been going on since she was about 4 and she seriously smells like a man that’s been working outside in 90 degree weather ALL day without deodorant on. She bathes every night before bed. What can I do? Is it safe for her to wear deodorant?
This problem is called a metabolic disorder, and you should mention this to your pediatrician so that he/she can do further testing to rule out this as a primary cause. Make sure that when you visit your doctor, that you do not bathe the child so that the doctor can smell the distinct odor about which you are complaining. Your pediatrician may want to refer you to a specialist doctor who is knowledgeable about genetic and metabolic disorders.
If further genetic testing for a metabolic disorder does not uncover any problem, then you might want to try the following simple experiments:
If your child is a milk drinker, you might want to switch to only organic milk, since the hormones added to regular cow’s milk have been found to cause body odor in children. Many parents have found this to work well, then when they re-introduced the regular milk, the body odor would re-appear. Or you could substitute cow’s milk with rice or almond milk. I would not use soy milk in small children because soy contains phytoestrogens and may interfere with the hormonal development in small children.
Some children develop body odor when going through puberty, however, I think that a four or five year old would be too young to exhibit puberty problems, unless there is another cause for premature puberty. You may want to have your doctor check your child out for premature puberty physically and metabolically.
Another cause could be parasites. So be sure to have your doctor check for parasites in your child. Even though there are lots of natural home remedies available for treating parasites, I would suggest that you first get testing done to determine the type of parasite, then you may be able to proceed with a more natural remedy if it is applicable.
Diagnosis is important first. Sometimes supplementation with a small amount of MSM powder (1/4 teaspoon in the morning on an empty stomach) will help with pinworms in children and prevent them from recurring. MSM does this by changing the pH of the gastrointestinal system and making it an unfavorable environment so that the worms will not be able to live there.
Some foods also contribute to body odor in children, so experimenting with eliminating some common foods, such as meat, eggs, dairy, wheat, and corn, may help to control the odor. Hopefully, your child has been checked out for phenolketonuria. Usually it is diagnosed by a heel stick on a newborn child right after birth.
Some children may have hyperactive sweat glands, called hyperhydrosis, and this could cause excess body odor. Living in a hot, humid climate can contribute to excess sweating also.
Other causes could be heavy metal toxicities. Visit your Naturopathic doctor to have a hair mineral test and heavy metal toxicity test to rule out metal toxins.
I would not advise using an adult deodorant because they are made for adults, and may contain too many harmful chemicals and may cause toxicity in the children. Since there are no specific deodorants made for small children, it might be fun to use some harmless, non-toxic home remedies.
Baking soda, diluted apple cider vinegar, sage tea, diluted essential oils, natural baby wipes, and natural deodorant crystals may be safer than the conventional chemical deodorants. Always be careful when using even natural substances such as essential oils upon the child’s skin. You might want to test it on an arm or leg to make sure that it does not cause a rash.
Homeopathic medicine works wonderfully with children, so you might want to try Silicea 6X or 6C, in low potency. You could also visit a Homeopathic practitioner, and have them prescribe a remedy specifically for your child.
Good luck in exploring the cause.