Parents are usually aware of subtle (or at times strong aroma)s emanating from their baby or young child in a typical day. Occasionally you may notice an unfamiliar odor that could indicate a specific problem. Bad breath (halitosis) usually indicates that an infection is present somewhere – in the gums, throat, toiadenoids, or sinuses. A child with nasal congestion breathes through the mouth or a child with a chronic cough may also have bad breath. A trip to the doctor’s office will probably be necessary to find and treat the cause.
An extremely foul odor emanating from a small face, worsening by the day and not improved by brushing or bathing, is probably the result of an object that has been stuffed up the nose. Thick, discolored drainage from one nostril may be more prominent than the smell. A wad of paper, a pencil eraser, foam from the couch, a pea or bean, and a small part from a stuffed animal are among the possibilities. In most cases, your child’s doctor will be able to examine the foreign object with narrow forceps, but adhered to help hold your child still while the object is removed.
This is similar but less common scenario that may occur if daughter inserts a small object into her vagina. An odor from the genital area should be checked by her doctor. A bacterial infection can also generate a disagreeable odor that won’t require simple bathing and will need medical attention.
Smelly feet can occur in a child of any age who wears barely ventilated shoes. Heat, sweat, and bacteria are then ingredients, and treatment isn’t particularly complicated: Have the child wear well-ventilated footwear or sandals or let her go barefoot. Clean socks and a daily bath or shower will certainly help. Absorbent powder crinkled into shoes may absorb some of the perspiration and help curb the aroma.
A sick child sometimes gives off unusual odors. An acidly sweet aroma (or one that resembles nail polish) can be caused by compounds called ketones, which accumulate when a child hasn’t been eating because of a stomach upset. Rarely this smell heralds the onset of diabetes, but if so, the child will have other symptoms first, frequent voiding, weight loss, and increasing listlessness. This situation needs immediate medical attention.
Unusual odors, such as a “maple syrup” or “sweaty let” smell in an infant who isn’t wearing shoes, may indicate metabolic disorders that are often serious but fortunately extremely rare. Usually other features of these diseases – failure to gain weight, lethargy, seizures, and delayed development, among others – will signal that nothing is drastically wrong well before anyone is concerned about unusual smells.
With the onset of puberty comes a different set of odor problems. Sebaceous glands on the neck and upper body, under the arms, and in the genital area begin to produce material called sebum. Skin bacteria acting CM this sub-stance can generate very disagreeable body odor after one or two days. Interestingly, the watery perspiration that appears during exercise or strew has no odor at all.
Teenagers can fall into two extremes in dealing with body odors. Some are overly concerned about the social consequences of body odor and go to extremes using antiperspirants (which can irritate the skin under the arms), aftershave, cologne, vaginal douches, foot powders, or other products they have seen advertised in magazines or on TV. Other teens may need prompting to take care of even the very basic hygiene.
In dealing with adolescent odor issues, moderation and common sense should prevail. Daily showering or bathing, regularly using shampoo (every day for some teens), wearing clean socks and underwear each day, brushing teeth after meals, and laundering or dry-cleaning clothes – in other words, basic self-care – will prevent most body-odor problems.
Girls who have begun menstruating may worry about odor arising from this monthly event and be tempted to use “hygienic” measures such as douches or feminine sprays. Menstrual flow itself is not malodorous. Simple measures such as daily bathing or showering, changing saturated pads, or (most important) not leaving a tampon in the vagina for more than six hours will prevent or minimize unpleasant odors. Feminine-hygiene sprays can irritate delicate tissue, and douching is unnecessary to maintain cleanliness. Any persistent drainage that is discolored, itchy, painful, or foul-smelling could indicate the presence of an infection (or, rarely, a lost tampon).This should not be treated by douching but should be evaluated by a physician.