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Smelly armpits: Treatment and prevention

From time to time, several individuals encounter smelly armpits. The liquid blends with the bacteria on the skin as people sweat. It can create an unpleasant smell as it dries.

For excessive sweating, many remedies are available, including over-the-counter therapies, prescription medications, injections, and more.

We look at what causes smelly armpits in this post, how to treat them, and when it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor.


Smelly ampits

For smelly armpits, sweat is responsible. Sweating is a natural and essential feature of the body that prevents overheating in individuals.

The body has 2–4 million sweat glands. Eccrine sweat glands are most of these, and the others are apocrine sweat glands. People have plenty of sweat glands in the armpits in both forms.

The sweat glands release sweat when a person exercises or gets too hot, which evaporates and cools the body down. Stress and intense feelings can make people sweat as well.

Eccrine glands release a liquid that is transparent and does not smell. It can smell, however if it dries on the skin.

When it mixes with the bacteria on the skin, apocrine glands release a thick fluid that smells.

In both males and females, during puberty, the sweat glands become more active. As a consequence, although they have not done so before, it is normal for adolescents to begin to get smelly armpits.

Some individuals have a medical condition that makes them sweat more than they need to. Hyperhidrosis is the term for this disease.

About 3 percent of the population is affected by hyperhidrosis. People that have the disorder have sweat glands that are overactive and release sweat even though they are not hot or exercising.

Typically, hyperhidrosis is harmless, but often it is the result of an overactive thyroid.

It can contribute to a distinctive body odor when sweat blends with bacteria, which people generally refer to as B.O. Doctors call it bromhidrosis if this odor becomes persistent.

The way sweat smells can be changed by some ingredients, such as garlic.


By getting rid of the bacteria that creates the odor, good grooming will help avoid smelly armpits.

Once a day and after exercise, individuals can shower or bathe. Every day they should also wear clean clothes and change their clothes after doing exercise.

People should find other ways to combat smelly armpits, as well as practice good hygiene. They include:


It can also help to avoid body odor by shaving the armpits and using a deodorant or antiperspirant. A scent that will help cover the smell comes with daily deodorant.

Antiperspirant contains substances that stop sweating in individuals. The sweat glands are plugged in which tells the body to stop sweating.

For people with hyperhidrosis, these simple steps may not work.

If sweating is excessive, even if a person washes regularly and uses deodorant or antiperspirant, it may cause smelly armpits.

A prescription power antiperspirant is generally the first thing a doctor can prescribe. These can burn or irritate the skin sometimes. The person should inform their doctor if this happens.

Doctors might recommend the treatments below if prescription strength antiperspirants do not stop excessive sweating.

Botulinum toxin injections

People usually refer to botulinum toxin injections as Botox.

Often to combat excessive sweating, doctors inject tiny doses of Botox into their armpits.

By blocking a chemical in the body that activates the sweat glands, botox injections help avoid excessive sweating.

It takes 4 to 5 days to function for most individuals, and the results typically last for around 4 to 6 months.

Some individuals might find the injections to be painful.

Prescription medication

If the entire body is affected by excessive sweating, doctors might consider using anticholinergic drugs.

Anticholinergic drugs prevent sweating from happening in humans, but they are not necessarily acceptable for athletes or people living in hot climates.

Common side effects of these drugs include:

  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • blurry vision
  • an abnormal heartbeat

Sudden changes to body odor

Eating certain foods can make sweat smell different, like garlic and onion. Alcohol may have this effect as well. Therefore, eating such foods and beverages will lead to a sudden change in body odor around the armpits.

Stress and anxiety can make individuals sweat more than average. This can lead to a drastic change in the way the armpits smell, sometimes.

What doctors deem secondary hyperhidrosis can be caused by several different variables. This expression suggests that prolonged sweating is a symbol of something else.

Possible secondary hyperhidrosis causes include:

  • Menopause: People who have been through menopause can develop hyperhidrosis afterward. Doctors might recommend hormone replacement therapy or anticholinergic medications.
  • Medicines: A change in body odor might be a side effect of a medication. Opiates, such as methadone, and cholinergics, such as galantamine, can have this effect. Taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — a type of antidepressant — or multiple medications can also lead to hyperhidrosis.
  • Infections: Some infections, including brucellosis, HIVmalaria, and endocarditis, can lead to secondary hyperhidrosis.

The cause of all drastic changes in armpit odor is not usually excessive sweating.

The skin condition intertrigo, for example, may cause a musty odor. In folds of the skin, such as those in the belly, under the breasts, and in the armpits, this disease, which causes a rash, develops.

Doctors may recommend that you use a special soap containing 1 percent ketoconazole. They would also propose that the affected area be kept as clean and dry as possible.

When to see a doctor

Everyone will have smelly armpits from time to time. It is completely natural and not normally a cause for concern.

If smelly armpits are a more frequent occurrence, even so, they can get in the way of daily life.

Both hyperhidrosis and bromhidrosis may cause social problems and depression. The person should talk to a doctor when this is the case.


Washing regularly and after sweating is the best way to avoid smelly armpits.

It may also help to use antiperspirant or deodorant and shave the armpits.

In certain situations, the avoidance of alcohol and some ingredients, such as onions and garlic, can also help prevent smelly armpits.


Sweating is a natural feature of the body and is completely normal. There can be a scent as the liquid dries. At times, most individuals would have smelly armpits.

The problem can generally be avoided by washing regularly and after exercising, wearing clean clothing every day and using antiperspirant or deodorant.

Some individuals have a disease that makes them sweat too much. This is considered hyperhidrosis by doctors, and it can also contribute to body odor.

A sudden improvement in armpit odor may be caused by various variables. This involve foods and drugs that are certain.

Anyone who thinks that their quality of life is compromised by smelly armpits should consult with a doctor.