As our children transition into “tween-hood,” we notice a variety of changes due to the influx of hormones, including mood changes, body development, hair growth and, of course, body odor. Girls typically begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 13, and boys start when they are between 9 and 14 years old. Puberty causes an increase in new hormones, which can incite the tween’s sweat glands. Sweat alone does not cause body odor — it is the bacteria breaking down the oily sweat found under the arms and in other areas that produce body odor.
The new puberty hormones also cause teen sweat to contain different chemicals that are not present during childhood. These new chemicals produce stronger odors when they are broken down. This may explain the “youth locker room effect,” or why body odor is so much more intense at the beginning
of puberty and can become less pungent as teens’ bodies adjust to body changes.
Even if a child hasn’t begun puberty, they may still emit body odor due to excessive sweating. For parents, talking about body odor is never an easy conversation to have with your child. A good approach is to explain to your child that as we grow older and more independent, there are hygiene habits that need to be followed regularly. Help to create a routine for your child so that they can effectively battle body odor.
According to Nemours Clinic, some key habits that should be followed include:
➜ Make sure your child is bathing daily. While younger children can go a day or two without a shower or bath, tweens will build up body odor and often not realize it while friends and classmates will inevitably notice. If your child is involved in activities like sports, dance or gymnastics, or sweats excessively, another shower might be in order.
Emphasize how important it is for the child to clean from head to toe, including under the arms, in the groin or pelvic area, and the feet. Take your child shopping to pick out soaps, shampoos and other products they may want.
➜ Ensure that your child is wearing clean underwear, socks and clothes every day. Running from one class to another and sweating during daily activities (especially in warmer climates) means bacteria can stick to their clothes and cause odor.
➜ Watch your child’s diet to see if something they eat, such as garlic, onions or spicy food, may be causing or contributing to their body odor.
Let’s Talk Deodorant:
While all of these are recommended healthy hygiene habits, it may be that your tween may still need some form of deodorant to ensure daily body odor is kept at bay. There are different kinds of products available. Deodorants cover up the odor of sweat and bacteria, and antiperspirants actually stop or dry up perspiration. Products aimed at kids and teens work the same way as adult versions, but may have packaging or smells that may be appealing to tweens.
It is important for parents to understand the ingredients in some of these products before purchasing:
Antiperspirants typically contain ingredients like aluminum chloride or aluminum zirconium to help stop sweat. Antiperspirants and some deodorants may also contain ingredients like phthalates (ingredients that help products stick to your skin) and parabens (preservatives) in deodorant which may interfere with hormones.
If you prefer that your child has a product free of aluminum and preservatives, there are many high-quality natural deodorants sold in drugstores, online or at health food stores. Popular brands include Tom’s of Maine, Native, Jason and Fresh Kidz deodorants. You may need to try several types of products to see what works best for your child.
If your child’s odor doesn’t improve or worsens despite using an antiperspirant, a deodorant and improving hygiene habits, visit their doctor. Children may have conditions that cause excess perspiration. Your doctor may suggest running tests to confirm other problems like an infection, diabetes or an overactive thyroid.