© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD
Erika wrote in: “Is it normal for a 4 year old to have musty armpits? Only I can smell it because I jam my nose in her pits, but otherwise no odor emanates. But still, age 4?!?! Do I do nothing? I definitely don’t want to start deodorant or antiperspirants.”
After almost 20 years of seeing (and smelling) dozens of shirtless kids a day, I can promise you, yes, some of them do have their own odor. I suspect all of them, do, really – and in the mists of time, years ago, those odors were probably unique to each child and a way for moms to keep track of their little ones. These days, we expect cleanliness, anti-bacterial toothpastes, and children to smell vaguely of star anise, essential oils, and gluten-free pizza. But it wasn’t always that way.
If your kiddo is especially stinky (and it sounds like she isn’t – honestly, if you have to get your nose into her pits to find the odor, I think you need a new hobby) you can bathe her more, or insist she use a washcloth, or use a deodorant soap. It’s not really likely that an antiperspirant will help much at this age, because before puberty sweat is of the less-stinksome variety.
Speaking of puberty – I’ve been asked before of stinky young children, is this a sign of early puberty? Probably not, unless it’s accompanied by other things. Real puberty begins with breast development or increased testicle size (not, presumably, at the same time.) There will also be a jump in height. Other things like pubic hair, body odor, and acne often begin around the same time, but actually aren’t caused by hormones from the gonads, and aren’t reliable signs of puberty. If you’ve got questions about your specific child regarding puberty, ask your doc, in person, during an exam. (Not over the phone. Honestly, I can’t tell without examining your child. And, please, don’t email photos. Someone could get arrested.)
Bottom line: file this under “something else not to worry about,” and enjoy your little one, musty armpits and all.