“Many parents consult in endocrinology because their child stinks or sweats” mentions Céline Huot, the associate professor of the department of clinical endocrinology at CHU Sainte-Justine. So, if you thought you were the only mother whose child has a smelly body odour, rest assured! The “problem” is common.
Is it puberty?
When you get a whiff of your child's underarms, you feel like you’re sniffing a teenager. Has your child started puberty? At 6 years old? Is that even possible?
Before speaking of puberty, two circuits must be activated. For girls, the master gland (called the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain), must send messages to two glands: the ovaries and the adrenal gland (located on top of the kidneys). For boys, the pituitary gland must send signals to the testicles and the adrenal gland.
“We do not consider it early when this process happens to girls after the age of 8. And in the case of boys, this process usually happens after the age of 9,” says Céline Huot. Yes, it seems early, but it’s normal.
For your 6-year-old child, it’s not really puberty but rather, premature adrenarche. A complicated word to explain something quite simple: the messages coming from the pituitary are activated, but only to one of their two destinations. In girls, the messages to the ovaries are not activated and in boys, the messages to the testicles aren’t. In this case, it would be the messages to the adrenal glands that are activated. In fact, Ms Huot mentions that “the messages to the adrenal glands begin well before puberty”.
What to do?
There is no treatment, antibiotic or miracle pill that can eliminate bad odours. The smell of sweat coming from your child, even at 6 years old, is a normal part of the hormonal process. There is no avoiding it. But you can find a way to diminish the odours.
Ms Huot suggests that parents should examine their child’s underarms and look if there are small hair follicles that start to be stimulated. You won’t see actual hairs, but you might notice that the skin is not exactly smooth and that there are small crevices. “If that is the case, believe it or not, the skin is ready for deodorant”. So, head to the pharmacy! You can ask the pharmacist for advice or you can find an over-the-counter product yourself. The most important thing is to pick a deodorant that does not contain aluminium.
Add that to a good daily cleaning of the smelly armpits and the bad body odours will diminish guaranteed. Watch your child to ensure that they scrub their armpits well with soap, and smell them before they get out of the bath or shower. We can’t deny that sometimes, they tend to cut corners!