What Is The Cause Of Body Odor And How Can You Prevent This Problem?

Science News for Students

It is normal that many people experience having smelly armpits once in a while. When people sweat, the liquid droplets mix with the bacteria found in the skin, so when that eventually dries up – it will most likely cause an unpleasant smell.

There are various remedies available in the market to combat excessive sweating like prescription medications, topical treatments and injections.

What is the cause of smelly armpits? How do we treat them? When should we talk to a doctor about this problem? This article will tackle all the questions you need to know about this unfortunate problem.

What causes smelly armpits?

The main cause for smelly armpits is sweat. While sweating is perfectly normal, each person has 2-4 million sweat glands in their bodies. Most of these are known as eccrine sweat glands, while some others are apocrine sweat glands. People have both these types in their armpits.

When a person becomes too hot, or exercises – these sweat glands will release sweat to cool down the body. Stress and high emotions will also make people sweat.

The Eccrine glands release a clear liquid that once dries on the skin, can possibly smell. The Apocrine glands on the other hand, release a thick fluid that has a certain smell once it mixes with the bacteria found on the skin.

During puberty is when sweat glands are most active in both men and women. Because of this, teenagers are known to get smelly armpits even if they’ve never experienced that before. Others could have a medical disorder called hyperhidrosis that makes them sweat more than normal. 3% of the world’s population is known to have hyperhidrosis. People with this medical disorder have overactive sweat glands that will release sweat without exercising or feeling stressed. Although it is harmless, it is a result of an overactive thyroid.

One sweat mixes with bacteria, this will release a distinctive body odor. Some foods like garlic also change the smell of our sweat.

What is the treatment?

The best way to prevent having smelly armpits is by practicing good hygiene. Everybody should shower at least once a day after exercising. They should also wear clean clothes and change after being sweaty. Other than practicing good hygiene, these other things can help:

1] Deodorant – Shaving armpits and using deodorant daily can combat body odor. Some antiperspirants also contain chemicals to prevent sweat from coming out of the armpits. Although this simple measure may not work for people who have hyperhidrosis, there are other antiperspirant prescriptions that can help. If these burn or irritate the skin, see a specialist.

If prescription strength antiperspirants do not work, there are other treatments that your doctor might suggest below.

2] Botulinum toxin injections – Otherwise known as botox, these can be used to treat excessive sweating. Botox injections block a chemical found in the body that stimulates the sweat glands. The effects last for around 4-6 months.

3] Prescription medication – There are anticholinergic medicines available in the market that some doctors could prescribe. These medicines stop sweating though they are not advisable for athletes or people living in hotter climates. The also have a number of side effects like dry mouth and eyes, blurry vision and an abnormal heartbeat.

Sudden change in body odor

Consuming food like garlic and onions can make the smell of sweat different. Drinking alcohol can also have the same effect. Eating food you don’t normally eat can lead to a sudden change in your smell.

Stress and anxiety also makes people sweat more that usual which could also change the smell of your body odor.

When should you see a doctor?

It’s perfectly normal for people to notice smelly armpits once in a while, so this is not a cause for concern. If it becomes more frequent than normal, then having body odor can be a problem in everyday life.

Hyperhidrosis and bromhidrosis can cause more stress and anxiety on the person so if this is the case, then seeing a specialist will definitely help.

How do you prevent having smelly armpits?

The best prevention is to shower daily, especially after exercising or sweating. Use an antiperspirant or deodorant and keep your armpit area clean by shaving it regularly. Avoid certain food or alcohol that could enhance your body odor.