Imagine yourself in the ever busy and stuffy BRT buses where people standing are equal to those sitting, and everyone competing for space as bodies are pressed on each other and within minutes, you noticed a particular smell?. Or have you being in a conference room for a meeting and although the ACs are switched on you begin to notice this smell?
Sandra (not her real name) entered a meeting a little late and just in seconds there was this uncomfortable smell in the room and most eyes were on her. “I knew it was me because I have noticed a similar reaction a number of times” Sandra said. “I was very uncomfortable for the rest of the meeting. I couldn’t even wait for pleasantries after the meeting, I felt so helpless, so embarrassed”
How Does Body Odour Occur?
There are many people like Sandra who have to deal with body odour. Bromhidrosis (another word for body odor) happens at puberty because of increasing hormones called androgens. These hormones are not active until puberty, which is why body odor wasn’t noticed prior to puberty.
While sweat itself is virtually odorless, certain bacteria uses it as a breeding ground and multiply rapidly. What you smell is the products related to bacteria breakdown of keratin protein on the surface of your skin.
When you work out or move around in the heat or sun, your body produces sweat which is one way for the body to regulate temperature. However, when sweat meets the bacteria on the surface of your skin, it produces an odor. That smell is what we call body odor (or B.O. for short).
Why Do My Feet and Armpit Smell?
While body odor is usually associated with the armpits, bacteria can also produce odour in other areas of the body such as; the feet, anus area, upper thighs, and the groin, etc. Thoroughly washing your skin with a bathing sponge and soap regularly (especially those areas prone to sweating) can help prevent body odor.
Remember that smelly feet can also cause smelly shoes. Treating your shoes with an over-the-counter deodorizer can help. Also, wear thick, absorbent socks if you can.
How Do I Fight Body Odour?
The following tips are worth considering to reduce body odour:
1. Apply an antiperspirant at bedtime. This gives the product a chance to work while you sleep and are not sweating. If you apply antiperspirants after showering in the morning, the sweat you accumulate will wash away the product and render you defenseless against daytime sweating. Remember, deodorants do not prevent sweating. They mainly mask the smell of the sweat on your skin. Antiperspirants are chemical agents that reduce sweating. Many antiperspirant preparations also contain a deodorant, which helps to mask the smell. Check the product you use to make sure it contains an antiperspirant.
2. Keep your underarms dry. Bacteria have a hard time breeding in dry areas of the body.
3. Wear natural-made fibres such as wool, silk, or cotton. These will make sweat to evaporate quicker.
4. Try a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to fight body odour. Use 1 teaspoon of peroxide (3%) to 1 cup (8 ounces) of water. Wipe this on affected areas (underarm, feet, groin) with a washcloth. This may help destroy some of the bacteria that creates odour.
5. If sweat from working out is your No. 1 cause of body odor, wash your workout clothes often. Sweaty gym clothes are a bacteria-breeding ground.
6. Change your diet. Sometimes, fatty foods, oils, or strong-smelling foods such as garlic, curry, and onions, can seep through your pores and cause body odor (always see a doctor or dietician before making drastic dietary changes).
7. If you have excessive sweating (called hyperhidrosis), talk to your doctor. There are a few treatment options for those with more severe sweating who desire more aggressive treatments. Also, certain medical problems can lead to excessive sweating. Your doctor can make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
8. Shaving your underarm regularly will help prevent the accumulation of bacteria and can reduce sweat and odor.
What about Smelly Feet?
While smelly feet are not usually as big a nuisance as armpits because the smell is usually contained by wearing shoes and socks, they can be a source of discomfort when at home with a spouse, family member etc. The following tips may help control the symptoms of smelly feet.
1. Wear a clean pair of socks every day. Avoid wearing trainers, or shoes, that have plastic linings for long periods of time because they trap the sweat around feet. Shoes with a leather lining are better. Socks made of man-made fibres and wool allow sweat to evaporate. They are better than the ones made of silk and nylon materials.
2. Bathe feet in warm water every day preferably at night. If one has patches of dead skin on the soles of feet, these should be removed using a pumice stone since dead skin provides an ideal environment for bacteria to breed.
3. If a fungal infection such as athlete’s foot is present, it should be treated with anti-fungal foot spray/cream.
In some societies, body odor is accepted. But most countries today frown at body odor. In fact, some religions have strict guidelines about bathing practices and personal hygiene.
The best way to fight body odor is through prevention. For most teens, proper hygiene (like washing well and applying an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant) should be enough.