As if teens didn’t have enough to worry about with school, clothes, cars, friends and enemies, they also have to worry about body odors too. It may seem that you are the only one battling body odor; however, all teens going through puberty experience the unpleasantness of being self-conscious about odors.
Why Do We Sweat?
When teens enter puberty, their three million sweat glands become more active and the glands in your underarms, feet, and palms produce oilier sweat (1). Sweating is also important because it helps maintain your body temperature. Sweating brings down your body temperature by evaporating on your skin.
Underarm Body Odor
When puberty hits, teens start producing an odorless secretion from their sweat glands (2). Though the secretion may be odorless, when it interacts with the bacteria on your skin, it creates body odor. According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), you can do some things to help avoid body odor:
- Take as many showers or baths as you need in a day
- Use antiperspirant to keep your underarms drier
- Use deodorant to cover up any smells
- Wear clean clothes
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Wear clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton or linen (1)
It seems nobody is exempt from stinky feet; however, PAMF says that if you clean your feet daily with soap and water, use cornstarch or powder on your feet or in your shoes, and let your shoes dry out between wears, you can help reduce foot odor. You can also wear sandals to keep your feet dry and reduce food odor.
Bad breath (halitosis) is actually caused by bacteria growing in your mouth and on your tongue (2). While gum and breath mints can be quick fixes for bad breath after eating a type of food, teens can take other measures to insure fresh breath. You should brush and floss at least twice a day, brush or scrape your tongue everyday, and see a dentist twice a year to keep your mouth clean.
When to Expect Odors
According to Alan Greene MD FAAP (3), teens may enter puberty at different times; thus, teens start having body odors at different times. Generally, girls begin to have underarm odor and perspiration anytime after their 8th birthday. Boys start having odors anytime after they turn 9. If these changes happen earlier in boys or girls, or haven’t happened by 13 in girls or boys, they should visit their doctor to make sure everything is normal.
If Nothing Helps
If you’re a teen who has tried everything to get rid of your odor problem and nothing works, you can seek professional help. For unusually odorous underarms, doctors can prescribe prescription-strength antiperspirants (1). For bad breath, your dentist may clean your teeth and give you tips on how to avoid bad breath, or your dentist may prescribe a special mouthwash. Your dentist may tell you that the cause of your bad breath is sinusitis or gum disease (1). Stinky feet may be a sign of a more serious bacterial infection that needs to be treated by your doctor.
About Body Odors Sources:
- KidsHealth [online]
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation [online]
- Dr. Greene [online]