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The Cause of Body Odor in Young Children

author image Kerry L Williams
Kerry Williams has been working as a freelance writer since 1999. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including "Parenting Toddlers with Special Needs," "Christian Parenting Handbook" and online at Hard2Config. Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ball State University and an associate degree in surgical technology from National College.
The Cause of Body Odor in Young Children
A child with body odor can feel isolated and depressed.

If you have noticed an odor that your child carries, it may not be as superficial a problem as you suspect. Many disorders exist that can be the cause of a prepubescent child possessing body odor and the problem needs to be addressed. If you know that your child is clean and she is too young to be going through puberty, you should explore the reason for her odor with her physician.

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Phenylketonuria is inherited and is a metabolic disorder that causes a musty odor in the child's body. This disorder can cause intellectual and developmental disabilities due to the body not being able to process a portion of the protein phenylalanine. This protein is in most foods, such as meat, milk, eggs, and nuts. If the phenylalanine level gets too high in a child's body, brain damage can occur, but avoiding these foods can allow him to live a normal life. All babies born in the United States are tested for phenylketonuria at birth, which makes it easier to diagnose and treat earlier, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


Trimethylaminuria causes a fishy odor in affected children's sweat, urine, and breath. This disorder is caused by an inability to break down trimethylamine, which can be a genetic mutation or can be caused by an increase of bacteria in the digestive system. The odor that trimethylaminuria causes interferes with a child's relationships and social life.

Isovaleric Acidemia

Signs of isovaleric acidemia present shortly after birth.
Signs of isovaleric acidemia present shortly after birth.

Children who have acute illnesses occurring as a result of isovaleric acidemia possess a distinctive odor of sweaty feet. This odor is caused by the buildup of a compound called isovaleric acid in affected individuals. Isovaleric acidemia is cause by a buildup of organic acids in the blood, urine, and tissues. This buildup can be toxic and lead to health problems. The signs of this disorder present themselves within a few days after birth and they include poor feeding, vomiting, seizures, and lack of energy, according to the National Institutes of Health.


If an abnormal amount of sweat accompanies your child's odor, he may have hyperhidrosis, which is a condition that causes an unpredictable and excessive amount of sweating in the body. It is caused by overactive sweat glands and seems to be linked genetically in families. Hyperhidrosis causes a child emotional pain but there are treatments available to treat the sweating such as antiperspirants, Botox, medication, lontophoresis and surgery, NIH advises.


When your child carries an odor, it does not always mean that she has a disease or condition that you need to worry about. Before you panic, look for a life style reason. Change her diet if she is consuming caffeine, garlic, onions, curry, or other strong spices. Make sure that she is washing properly and often enough. If these changes don't effect her body odor, take her to her physician.

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