Stinky pits

The Pediatric Insider

© 2009 Roy Benaroch, MD

Rosa asked, “What can I do for my teenager’s stinky armpits? He uses an antiperspirant, but he still sweats a lot and smells bad. He doesn’t want to talk to the doctor about it, so he can’t get a prescription. Is there anything else I can do?”

Hope is on the way!

I know this sounds weird, but most people don’t use antiperspirants correctly. Antiperspirants will work much better if they’re put on at night, before going to sleep. That way they can soak into the sweat glands. If your son puts on his antiperspirant in the morning, he’s already sweating and diluting the effects.

You don’t believe me? Try it for a few nights—trust me. Put on antiperspirant right at bedtime. Even if you shower in the morning and don’t put more antiperspirant on, you’ll stay dryer than if you used your roll-on after the shower.

Another advantage: you won’t end up with those pit-stains on your clothes.

There are also a few “prescription strength” products now on the market, like “Degree Clinical Protection.” I don’t have any experience with these, but if they truly have a higher concentration of active ingredients then they may work better than the ordinary stuff. A doctor could also prescribe a high concentration antiperspirant, but honestly using the ordinary over-the-counter stuff at night seems to work well for almost everyone.

You could also look into deodorant soaps or other products that might mask the smell better.

I’d also like to reassure your son that he really could talk to his doctor about this, or anything else. There is very little we haven’t heard, and just about nothing is off-limits. Rarely, a true medical condition can cause excessive sweating, so if this issue is new or your son is losing weight or otherwise doesn’t feel well, he really ought to go talk to a doctor. I won’t complain, even if he’s stinky.

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2 Comments on “Stinky pits”

  1. Stinky in Roswell Says:

    Hi Dr. Roy,

    What if the stinky armpits belong to a 7-year-old boy? Is this normal? Are deodorants and anti-perspirants safe for young ones?



  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    Stinky, it’s probably normal, and yes, antiperspirants and deodorants are safe in school-age children. But your pediatrician ought to look for other signs of increased androgen activity, like growing too quickly, acne, or thick pubic hair. If other signs of male-sex-hormone activity are present, further evaluation would be a good idea. If it’s just the stinky pits, I wouldn’t worry about it.


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