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How to Deal with Stinky Kids, From Body Odor to Bad Breath

Giselleflissak / Getty Images

No matter how often we bathe my 4-year-old twins, it seems like, by the end of the day, they stink. Sometimes it’s their breath (especially during cold season), sometimes it’s just this vague dirt smell, and sometimes it’s an odd stale smell in their hair. I can only imagine what puberty is going to be like in my house! Yuck, I can just smell my stinky kids now.

Although the days of dirty, stinky diapers may be over, as kids get older, they start to develop all of these new odors…along with a growing reluctance to bathe thoroughly, or allow you to get in there and scrub them yourself. So what do you do? Here are some ways to manage your stinky kids…

1. Body Odor

As early as age 8, kids start going through the beginning stages of puberty; their adrenal glands start to get more active, increasing the sweat production under their arms and groin area, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Development. The more sweat, the more bacteria, and the more icky he will smell. Of course, as his body starts going through changes, he’s going to be even more self-conscious, so you’ve got to be subtle with your hygiene hints. Get him a cool body scrubber, along with a foaming body wash, both of which will allow for a more thorough cleaning than just bar soap. Depending on how strong the stink is, you may also want to consider buying him a deodorant, preferably an all-natural formula found at a health food store (get safety ratings here).

2. Bad Breath

All of us wake up with not-so-pleasant breath, the result of bacteria accumulating in your mouth all night long. Sometimes though, that breath lingers all day in kids, most often when they have colds or allergies. As pediatrician Alan Greene, MD, points out, “Smelly breath that persists throughout the day is most often the result of mouth-breathing, which dries out the mouth and allows the bacteria to grow.” He recommends that kids try to brush after every meal, for at least two minutes. Older children can chew on sugarless gum or candies, which will get the saliva going and wash away much of that stale bacteria. If the problem persists, call the pediatrician.

3. Smelly Feet

It’s not uncommon for active kids — and, hey, even lazy ones — to have smelly feet. The more that their feet sweat, particularly in shoes that don’t get a lot of air, the more odor-producing bacteria grows. First off, The Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends wearing cotton socks that absorb moisture, and shoes made of canvas, leather, or mesh which let the foot breathe. They also recommend changing out her shoes every day so that the shoes have a chance to dry out. As far as cleaning, be sure to wash her little tootsies really well with antibacterial soap, especially between the toes. You can also use non-medicated baby powder on her feet to suck up moisture and mask odor.

4. Musty Hair

Have you ever gone to snuggle with your child, only to be met with a sort of stale, wet dog smell? Well, just like other body parts, the scalp can sweat, leaving an unpleasant odor behind. Experts recommend eliminating the bacteria that causes the stench by washing the scalp with antibacterial body wash, or using an all-natural wash with antibacterial agents like lavender and peppermint.

5. Vaginal Unpleasantness

Although not as common, little girls can get the same kinds of infections and irritations as grown women.  While it’s normal for even little girls to have a down-there scent, any strong odors are cause for concern since an infection could be to blame.  If your daughter has unusual discharge as well, you should see her pediatrician.

6. Farting & Burping

While your kid might think that his farts and burps are absolutely hilarious, they sure can stink up the place. While obviously you want to encourage them to mind their manners, and hopefully, take it elsewhere if they can, you also want to minimize the problem. Tweaking their diet and limiting the gum-chewing, sodas, beans and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) will reduce the amount of gas — and stink — they’re producing.

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