Body Odour (also known as B.O, bromhidrosis, osmidrosis or ozochrotia) is a perceived unpleasant fragrance which can occur as a result of excessive sweat or/and accumulated body dirt. Body Odour has a strong genetic basis both in animals and humans, and can be also strongly influenced by various diseases and psychological conditions.
Body Odour usually becomes evident if measures are not taken on time to curb the smell. In females, it starts building up from 14 to 16 in females and 15 to 17 in males. Fat people, people who consume spicy foods regularly, alcoholics, as well as individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes are more susceptible to having B.O.
Sweating and Body Odour are facts of life for most people but can also take on a very offensive smell. Heavy perspiration and body odour can happen when you exercise, when you’re too warm, or when you’re nervous, anxious or under stress. The sweat itself doesn’t smell. The unpleasant odour is produced by bacteria on the skin that break down the sweat into acids.
The human body has two main types of sweat glands (the Eccrine and the Apocrine glands), and they produce two different types of sweat. Both types are odorless, but the type of sweat produced in our armpits and groin smells bad when combined with certain bacteria present on the skin surface. The genital and armpit regions also contain springy hairs which help diffuse body odors.
The Eccrine glands are spread across the skin. They produce sweat that reaches the skin’s surface through coiled ducts (tubes). They are responsible for regulating our body’s temperature by cooling the skin with sweat when we get hot. The Apocrine glands are found in the breasts, genital area, eyelids, armpits and ears, but mainly in hairy areas of the body, such as the armpits and genital areas. In the breasts they secrete fat droplets into breast milk. In the ear they help form earwax. Apocrine glands develop during puberty and release scented chemicals called pheromones.
However, it’s the apocrine glands that are mainly responsible for body odour, because the sweat they produce contains high levels of protein, which bacteria find easy to break down. Apocrine glands in the skin usually have an odour, as they are scent glands. People who sweat excessively from their apocrine glands (those with hyperhidrosis), or have a lot of bacteria on their skin, tend to have worse body odour.
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Sweat itself is virtually odourless to humans; it is the rapid multiplication of bacteria in the presence of sweat and what they do (break sweat down into acids) that eventually causes the unpleasant smell. The smell is perceived as unpleasant, many believe, because most of us have been brought up to dislike it. Body odour is most likely to occur in our feet, groin, armpits, genitals, pubic hair and other hair, belly button, anus, behind the ears, and to some (lesser) extent on the rest of our skin.
Body odour can have a nice and specific smell to the individual, and can be used especially by dogs and other animals to identify people. Each person’s unique body odour can be influenced by diet, gender, health, and medication.
In most body odour cases, it is not necessary to see your doctor. A person may be aware of it, or a good friend or a member of the household may tell them about their body odor. Some medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid gland), menopause, liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes can also change how much a person sweats, subsequently changing the way we smell.
Signs such as sweating at night, sweating much more than you normally do, without any logical reason, having cold sweats, sweat disrupting your daily routine, body smelling differently (if it is a fruity smell it could be due to diabetes. Liver or kidney disease often makes the individual have a bleach-like smell), could be warning signals for B.O, and a person may need to see a doctor if these are noticed.
Although body odour is commonly associated with hygiene practices, the best way to avoid getting body odour is to keep areas of your body that are prone to sweating clean and free of bacteria. Use soap to wash every day, paying particular attention to the areas that produce the most sweat, such as your armpits, genital area and feet. Washing removes sweat and reduces the number of bacteria on your skin. Changing and washing your clothes regularly will also help.
Using an antiperspirant or deodorant daily will help prevent body odour. Antiperspirants work by reducing the amount of sweat your body produces. Deodorants use perfume to mask the smell of sweat. Regularly shaving your armpits can also help reduce body odour. The hair in your armpits traps sweat and odour, providing ideal conditions for bacteria to multiply. In very severe cases of body odour, surgery or treatment with botulinum toxin may be possible options.
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