Help Your Tween Conquer Body Odor

Tween boy putting on deodorant
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When your child enters puberty, everything changes. In addition to mood swings and menstruation, changes in hormones result in an increase in perspiration, which sometimes means an increase or change in your child's body odor.

That distinct smell you notice emanating from your tween is associated with adrenarche, which is the medical term for the body changes your tween is experiencing, including the adrenal glands becoming more active. In fact, sweating increases in tweens, especially in the underarm and groin areas, because their glands are maturing and being stimulated by hormones.

Use these changes in their body as a teaching opportunity.

This increase in body odor can be a social burden to tweens who are already self-conscious and afraid of sticking out from the crowd. At the same time, they might not always be aware that they have a problem with personal hygiene. If your tween isn't always the most hygienic, there are ways to encourage your tween to boost hygiene practices and reduce body odor. Below are a few tactics that should help.

Take a Shower

Younger children can go a day or two without a shower or bath and nobody except mom and dad will know. But if your tween misses the opportunity to clean up, their friends, teachers, and other family members will almost surely notice. Be sure your child bathes or showers daily. If they are involved in sports or sweat excessively, showering twice a day might be in order.

Take the time to show your child how to properly clean from head to toe, including under the arms and in the groin or pelvic area.

Be sure they also scrub their feet and the back. A back scrubber will help them reach areas they can't reach on their own.

To encourage your child to shower or bathe, take them shopping so they can pick out soaps, shampoos, and other products that they'd like to use. By getting them involved in the process, they are more likely to be excited about bathing consistently.

Wash Clothes

Your child's clothes may look clean, but if they ran from one class to another, or perspired a lot on their walk home from school, then it's likely their clothes aren't as clean as you think they are. Clothes can harbor the bacteria that cause odor, so keep their clothes clean.

Show your tween how to sort clothes by color, use the washing machine and dryer, and fold clean clothes before putting them away. The added responsibility and additional chores will benefit them in the long run, especially when they head off to college.

Wear Deodorant

At some point in the tween years, you'll have to introduce your child to deodorant or antiperspirants. Antiperspirants minimize sweating, which can cut down on body odor. Deodorants and antiperspirants come in a variety of fragrances, so let your tween choose one that they like.

If your child has sensitive skin, a fragrance-free antiperspirant or deodorant might be the best option.

It's perfectly fine for your tween to reapply deodorant or antiperspirant before or after gym class, sports activities, or other physical activities. Keep a deodorant stick at home, and have your child keep one at school in their gym locker. And if they are in sports, throw a stick of deodorant into their equipment bag. They should reapply deodorant before practice to keep odors at bay.

Consider the Feet

Tweens are famous for running around in sneakers or shoes without the benefit of socks. While they may find it comfortable, going without socks is a recipe for some serious foot odor.

Look for 100% cotton socks or socks made of materials that breathe or wick away moisture or perspiration.

Every now and then, check your child's shoes to see if it's time to throw them in the washing machine. Or deodorize them with baby powder, baking soda, or deodorizing shoe spray. Charcoal deodorizing shoe inserts also help cut down on foul odors.

Limit Pungent Foods

If your tween seems to struggle with body odor despite wearing deodorant and practicing good hygiene, you may want to try limiting their intake of pungent foods. Foods like garlic, onions, and fish can increase body odor in some people. Even eating large amounts of red meat has been linked to an increase in body odor.

Consider cutting back on the frequency of these food items or finding suitable substitutions for them.

Drinking plenty of water also will help them wash toxins that are causing odors from their body. Also, the chlorophyll in leafy green vegetables can be a natural cleanser, so have your child eat spinach, kale, and arugula if they are willing.

Talk to a Doctor

Sometimes a child's distinct odor is caused by a medical condition. For instance, there are some genetic metabolic diseases that can cause body odor in kids, such as trimethylaminuria, which is also known as fish odor syndrome. People with this condition are unable to breakdown trimethylamine, a chemical compound that has a pungent odor.

Other diseases and illnesses also can cause a distinct odor, including diabetes, kidney or liver problems, or gout. Meanwhile, excessive sweating could be caused by hyperhidrosis, which occurs in 1% to 3% of the population for no apparent reason. However, there are times when hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying medical condition such as hyperthyroidism or stress-related conditions.

Although the chances of your kid's body odor being caused by an underlying condition are small, you might want to mention the odors and sweating to your doctor. You should especially reach out if you notice that your child has excessive body odor or has a distinct smell before age 8.

A Word From Verywell

Having a tween with difficult-to-control body odor can be stressful for parents. Aside from the unpleasant smells, you may worry about social issues like a risk for bullying if you're unable to get the odor under control.

If you have tried the tips in this article and your child is practicing good hygiene, you may want to speak to your child's doctor to see if they can recommend specific products or determine if there is an underlying medical condition responsible for the odor. With proper treatment, most body odors can be kept at bay.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bergler-Czop B, Brzezińska-Wcisło L. Dermatological problems of the pubertyPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(3):178-187. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.35621

  3. Mogilnicka I, Bogucki P, Ufnal M. Microbiota and malodor—etiology and managementInt J Mol Sci. 2020;21(8). doi:10.3390%2Fijms21082886

  4. Havlicek J, Lenochova P. The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor AttractivenessChemical Senses. 2006;31(8):747-752. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjl017

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Trimethylaminuria.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Sweating and Body Odor: Possible Causes.

  7. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Hyperhidrosis.

Additional Reading

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.