Published on July 30, 2019

teenage boy with smelly armpit

Why Does My Child Smell So Bad All of the Sudden?

They get taller, stronger and smarter as they grow up – but kids also change in some ways that aren’t as pleasant – they develop body odor.

It’s normal, but it can come as unwelcomed and surprising. Avera Medical Group Marshall Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Amanda Enestvedt, MSN, APRN, CPNP, offers parents and caregivers these straightforward tips on what to do – and what to avoid.

Build Better Bath Habits

Yes, you’d be a millionaire if you knew how to convince kids to shower or take baths more often. “It’s a challenge and if you come up with the $1 million idea, please share it,” Enestvedt said. “But around age 9, kids will start to develop body odor as part of their normal development. Talk to them early about the necessity for keeping clean, using deodorant and how it’s a normal part of growing up.”

Is It Too Soon?

All kids develop and age at their own rates, but if a child who is younger than 7 starts to show signs of body odor or other changes that indicate puberty, see your health care provider. “It could be a sign of something significant, and should be checked,” she said. “It’s best to be thorough and safe.”

New Routines Help

Add daily showers to the schedule and make kids realize it’s not optional. “Like any other responsibility, kids should have consequences if they skip their shower,” said Enestvedt. “Make it just part of life – like it is for mom, dad and older siblings.”

Kindness Goes a Long Way

Any changes – in height, weight and yes, smell – can be fodder for unfriendly comments or cringe-inducing statements. Take heed – and teach. “It can help to show kids that not everyone has access to a shower every day. They might have a classmate who doesn’t have deodorant or everything other kids have,” she said. “These situations can be cases where being nice and helping others comes into play. We all have shortcomings.”

Talk About It More

The development of a little body odor could be a good place to start conversations with your spouse or partner about other talks that will soon be coming up. “Allow for questions, be body-positive and try not to be embarrassed,” Enestvedt said. “Even adults can be uncomfortable talking about things like body odor with other adults, so remind kids the changes they are experiencing are natural and normal – and no big deal.”

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