Body Odor In Toddlers – Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Body Odor In Toddlers

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Sweat and body odor go hand in hand in adults since the body odor or bromhidrosis is usually produced due to the bacterial breakdown of sweat. But, this does not happen in toddlers as they do not have enough fatty acids and ammonia in their sweat. This prevents the bacterial activity, resulting in no odor.

In case of your toddler baby odor in places like the armpits, it could indeed be a signal of an underlying illness. In some toddlers, armpit odor may be due to the colonization of certain bacterial strains (1). MomJunction here tells you all about body odor in toddlers.

What Causes Body Odor In Toddlers

Apart from bacterial infections, many more factors contribute to body odor in toddlers.

  • A few toddlers may have body odor after eating certain foods like non-organic dairy products, meat, eggs, and spicy food.
  • It may also be due to the presence of parasites in the body.
  • Some toddlers may have hyperactive sweat glands, called hyperhidrosis, which produce more sweat and thereby cause excessive body odor. Excessive sweating could also be due to hot and humid climate.
  • Puberty causes body odor, but it is mostly not a case in a toddler unless he experiences premature puberty.
  • A rare condition called ‘fish odor syndrome’ may cause a fishy smell in the person’s breath, urine, and sweat. It is a result of genetic abnormality and the smell may or may not be noticed since birth.
  • A rare cause of body odor is heavy metal toxicities. A naturopathic doctor may do a mineral test and heavy metal toxicity test just to rule out the chance of metal toxins in your toddler.
  • Rare metabolic disorders may cause armpit odor in prepubescent children, as the body may not be able to generate enzymes required to break down chemicals in the body.
  1. For instance, a rare metabolic disorder called Phenylketonuria (2) is a condition where the body cannot break down phenylalanine, an amino acid present in food. The phenylalanine builds up causing strong body odor. Consuming less protein diet can help control body odor.
  1. Your toddler may smell like rotting fish if he has a metabolic disorder called Trimethylaminuria (3).
  1. If the toddler has Tyrosinemia type 1 or methionine malabsorption metabolic disorder (4), it may cause a distinct cabbage-like smell.
  1. If your toddler has Diabetic ketoacidosis (5), he may have distinctly fruity breath.

Symptoms Of Body Odor In Toddlers

It is easy to discern if your little one suffers from body odor, as the smell is pungent. You may observe armpit odor or odor in other parts of the body.


Diagnosis is necessary as it helps you proceed with the treatment. Take your toddler to a doctor and understand the cause of body odor. Ensure that you do not bathe your toddler before taking him to the physician as he would lose the distinct odor. The pediatrician may suggest tests to detect the primary cause. You may have to visit a specialist in genetic disorders if your pediatrician asks you to.

If the genetic testing does not reveal any metabolic disorder, you may try simple experiments like:

  • Switch to organic milk from regular milk. Hormones in cow milk are one of the reasons for body odor in toddlers. Many parents noticed that the body odor returned upon re-introducing regular milk.
  • You may also consider substituting cow milk with almond or rice milk. However, do not use soy milk as the phytoestrogens present in it may interfere with hormonal development.
  • Experiment and eliminate other common foods like eggs, meat, wheat, and corn to diagnose the odor.


Treatment becomes easy once the underlying cause of body odor is identified.

  • If the body odor in your little one is due to bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic course to clear the odor-causing bacteria. You may also visit a homeopathic practitioner, who would prescribe Silicea 6X or 6C, which works well with toddlers.
  • The doctor may also check for any parasites in your toddler. Once the type of parasite causing body odor is diagnosed, you may proceed with subsequent treatment.

Prevention Of Body Odor In Toddlers

Prevention is always better than cure. Take these simple measures to put body odor in your toddler at bay.

  • Help your little one stay clean by adopting all the normal hygiene measures.
  • Bathe her every morning and evening.
  • Regularly launder her bedding and clothes to prevent the building up of microbes, and hence odors.
  • Avoid offering foods like non-organic milk, meat, spicy meals containing garlic, chillies, and onions to lessen your little one’s odor problems.
  • Applying special antiperspirant aluminium chloride (Driclor) on your little one’s feet should reduce sweating.
  • You may also consider consulting a dietitian and check for a list of foods that your toddler can avoid.


1. When does a child generally begin to show body odor?

Typically, body odor does not occur until a child hits puberty. If a child experiences it earlier (before eight years in girls and before nine years in boys), it is considered as early puberty or precocious puberty. During this period, the underarm odor can be noted in children.

2. Can we use mild deodorant for toddlers?

It is advisable to talk to your toddler’s doctor before using any deodorant or perfume to tackle the odor. He may suggest using a mild deodorant for your toddler without antiperspirant.

However, products containing baking soda, sage tea, diluted apple cider vinegar, or natural baby wipes, diluted essential oils, and natural deodorant crystals are safer to use for toddlers rather than the chemical deodorants. Even before using natural substances like essential oils on your little one’s skin, be careful and ensure to test it on a small area on the leg or arm initially, to avoid infections.

Did your little one ever suffer from body odor? How did you deal with it? Share your valuable experiences here and help fellow mommies.

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