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Body Odour

Body odour is the smell caused by bacteria feeding on sweat on the skin, especially in the armpit and groin area.

Sweat itself doesn’t smell. The smell is made by the bacteria that feed on this sweat, which comes from the glands in the armpits and groin area. The sweat from these glands contains proteins and fats, which bacteria can feed on.
Sweating helps the body to control its temperature. On average we lose over a litre of sweat per day.

Excessive sweating and body odour are more likely if people are overweight, exercising, anxious, or have certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease. Hot weather encourages more sweating, and eating certain foods such as onions, fish, garlic, and spicy foods may also contribute.

At puberty, our bodies begin to make more of the hormone testosterone. This makes our glands produce more sweat, which is why sweating and body odour are more common after puberty.

Take regular baths or showers and wear clean clothes; these should be washed and then dried quickly, as bacteria can survive in damp clothing. Wash and thoroughly dry your feet regularly. Wear open sandals or bare feet where possible. When you wear enclosed shoes use cotton socks and avoid wearing trainers too often.

After washing, use an under-arm anti-perspirant. This will reduce the amount of sweat produced. Remember deodorants and body sprays will mask unpleasant smells, but will not reduce sweat production. Different brands have different active ingredients so some may work better than others. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

Anti-perspirants containing aluminium are used for very severe excessive sweating by blocking sweat glands, these are applied at night twice a week. These are not recommended for anyone with reduced kidney function. There has also been recent controversy over the possible link between anti-perspirants which include aluminium and incidence of breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

There are surgical treatments available for very severe sweating, carried out under local or general anaesthetic.

Remember, everyone is different so always ask your pharmacist for advice.

© Copyright MediCare 2009