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It was bound to happen at some point. Your sweet-smelling baby turns into a big ole stinky kid. Five minutes outside and suddenly the odor is enough to make your eyes water. What happened?

Body odor happens when sweat and bacteria mix. We sweat to maintain our body temperature and that sweat is water-based. Kids, of course, sweat from physical exertion, night sweats and fever. Most kids begin to experience body odor around the age of 9, and typically girls before boys. If a younger child is experiencing body odor, it might need to be checked out by a physician.

But what causes that odor when sweat happens?

According to Dr. Alicia Tolbert, a family physician with Tolbert Medicine in Clemson, the No. 1 cause is poor hygiene. Not washing regularly and not paying attention to those often smelly areas can cause a buildup of bacteria that mixes with sweat to cause the odor.

“Bacteria occurs naturally on our skin, but cleanliness is the key. To prevent the odor, it is key to help children understand body hygiene,” Tolbert said.

Of course, puberty and those pesky hormone changes also attribute to extra aroma in our kids. While completely normal, those changes in a growing child’s body can also cause the need for more odor control.

Speaking of controlling the odor, how can parents help their kids conquer the smell?

Encourage good hygiene. Washing with soap daily, especially in sweaty areas like the underarm, feet, and groin, can help eliminate the stink. Tolbert, who runs a concierge family medical practice, said, “Cleanliness is the key to preventing excessive odor.”

Drinking plenty of water can aid in flushing toxins from the body, thus eliminating many of the odors that can occur in our kids.

In addition to a clean body and cleansed insides, wearing clean clothing can also help. Clothing that smells musty or has been worn multiple days without washing can trap bacteria and mix with sweat to cause odor.

Tolbert said keeping the gym bags and shoes clean will also help cut down on the smells. She said even her young daughter has stinky feet after wearing her dance shoes week in and week out.

“Parents should help wash shoes at least once a week,” she said. “Have your child avoid storing old and used clothes in their backpack or gym bags. A good rule of thumb is ‘wear then wash.’ As a mom of four with a 12-year-old football player, I have found that deodorizer items like shoe inserts are a great purchase for athletes and dancers who transport shoes and athletic items in bags.”

Of course, deodorants will become key as your child ages. There are more natural options out there if you’re not ready to purchase Old Spice for your 12-year-old, and most stores carry a wide variety of teen-friendly deodorants.

Tolbert added that parents should be kind and educate their children about odors and how to prevent them. Take them shopping for deodorant or a body spray and make it fun for them.

Regardless, those yummy toes of babyhood are long gone, parents. Bring on the odor-eaters!

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