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Children's Health

Infant body odor

05/29/2007

Question:

My five month old son has body odor. We bathe him daily, and it is cool in our house, so he doesn`t sweat. He has been diagnosed with severe reflux and is on Prevacid, Reglan, and Zantac. Any ideas? He is on soy formula, no solids, and frequently becomes constipated. I am at my wits end dealing with his doctor and sleep studies and on and on....

Answer:

What a difficult introduction to parenthood! It sounds as though you are dealing with multiple issues in your son's health. Typically young children do not have a strong body odor because their oil glands are not producing the oils that bacteria on the skin process to create typical human body odors. This occurs shortly before the onset of puberty.

One of the most common causes is a problem in the body's processing of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. This can be a problem in breaking down proteins into amino acids during digestion or a problem in moving the amino acid into the body's cells for use in growth. In both cases, the abnormal level of the amino acid leads to a strong smell in the urine, breath and general body.

There are many metabolic screening tests available, however states vary widely in which ones are part of the normal newborn screening panel done before the baby comes home from the hospital. It is possible that your baby has one of the rare errors in metabolism that was not tested for before he came home.

Children with metabolic disorders often have multiple other problems, including digestive and growth problems. It is a good idea to ask your son's doctor to review his newborn screening tests and to order those that were not done, but are available, that may identify his problem with body odor as well as feeding issues. If your child's doctor is not receptive to this request, ask for a referral to a pediatric metabolic specialist at your nearest Children's Medical Center.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University