Body Odour Signals Serious Health Problems

body odour signals serious health problems

Personal Hygiene Affects Wellbeing

Body odour signals serious health problems explains that though most body odours are harmless, they can also be signs of something more serious.  In recent times, research suggests illnesses can be detected through body odour. Subsequently, scientists are paying more attention to body odours that contain powerful clues about our health.

This article, Body odour signals serious health problems, identifies nine parts of your body that exude unpleasant smell. They are the skin, breast, hair/scalp, navel, ears, armpits, groins, penis, and vagina. The causes of body odour, prevention, and treatment will be the major focus.


body odour signals serious health problems

If you find a yellow or white lump on your skin, you might have a sebaceous cyst. Sebaceous cysts are usually harmless and they don’t hurt. But keep an eye out for signs of infection. One sign of infection is redness and swelling around the cyst. Or foul-smelling drainage seeping out of the cyst.

Granting sebaceous cysts are rarely harmful, there have been some rare cases where the cysts have become malignant. So if you think the sebaceous cyst is infected then you should see your doctor right away. Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics, or get the cyst drained or removed.


While nipple discharge is normal after a woman gives birth, it may be a health problem when the discharge is smelly. The yellow and foul-smelly pus may be caused by a breast infection.

It’s important for your doctor to check for any nipple discharge. The following tests may be used for diagnosis.

  • Clinical breast exam
  • Mammography
  • Ductography
  • Blood tests to check hormone levels
  • Checking the  discharge in the laboratory
  • Biopsy

Treatment for nipple discharge will depend on what is causing it. Treatment options may include:

  • Medications to treat hormone or endocrine gland problems
  • Antibiotics for breast infections, and draining any pus collecting in the breast (abscess)
  • Surgery to remove a duct


If someone asked you to list the parts of the body most likely to generate an unpleasant smell, what would top your list? You might list feet or mouth. But surprisingly your scalp might be smellier than you realise. Smelly hair often manifests as a horrific odour that oozes from the hair and scalp.

Smelly hair could be Seborrheic dermatitis caused by an overgrowth of natural yeast that lives on our bodies. Other causes of smelly hair are excessive sweating, fungal infection, hormonal changes, under-or over-washing, pollution, psoriasis, diet, and hair products.

If Seborrheic dermatitis is contributing to the smell emanating from your scalp, it might be worth washing your hair and scalp with a shampoo specifically formulated for this purpose. For instance, Triclosan-based and sulphur shampoos or soaps may offer some relief. This is because Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that can prevent bacteria from growing. While sulfur could reduce scalp oiliness which allows bacteria or fungi to grow. Also, follow up with a visit to your dermatologist to ensure your symptoms are not caused by psoriasis or some other serious condition.


body odour signals serious health problems

The navel is one area people don’t pay much attention to when it comes to personal care.  Do you know there are about 70 types of bacteria in your navel? So, it is not a bad idea to clean your navel once or twice a week to avoid potential infections and smells. Soap and water may be all you need for a smelly navel.

Then again odour can also be a sign of an infection. For example, an infected navel piercing might stink. And if you have diabetes, it’s easier to get infections. If you somehow cut or scrape your bellybutton, it could get infected too. This can give you pain, swelling, and smelly pus that leaks from your navel. Your doctor might give you antibiotics or drain any built-up fluid. On the other hand, if another health problem caused it, you may get surgery to stop it from happening again.


Earwax is a normal part of keeping your ears healthy and clean. But if it starts to smell or you see discharge, it could be caused by a medical condition or other complication. There are many causes of smelly earwax. These include excessive earwax, infection, a foreign object in the ear, swimming ear, cysts, and ear cancer.

Smelly earwax is usually accompanied by other symptoms. Hence, if home remedies do not clear up your earwax issue in a couple of days, or if you think you have an ear infection, you should see your doctor for treatment. Some indicators of an ear infection are symptoms that last more than a day, severe ear pain, and discharge.


body odour signals serious health problems

The odour from a smelly armpit can be really pungent. Researches found most people have around 100 to 200 different strains of bacteria living in their armpits.

The causes of smelly armpits are poor hygiene or not using the right products. Or perhaps there’s an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated. Besides, if your skin develops an infection, you may experience a sudden smell at the location of the infection. Some types of skin infections or conditions that might cause a smell include trichomycosis axillaris, a bacterial infection of underarm hair follicles.

Additionally, sweating is another area of concern. Although sweat is odourless, when it mixes with bacteria on your skin, it emits a powerful smell. Therefore, using an antiperspirant or deodorant, or both, daily, after your shower, can help remedy armpit odour.


Sweating in the groin area can attract fungus and bacteria that can lead to a bad smell. The fungi that cause jock itch are responsible for this mouldy smell. Other risk factors for jock itch are diabetes, contact sports, low immunity, and poor hygiene.

Showering after exercise or athletic activity can help reduce the bad-smelling effects of smells related to sweating. Putting on clean, dry clothes after a sweat session can also help

Finally, some skin infections will clear up by themselves if you keep the area clean and dry. Besides a mild case should clear up quickly with an OTC ointment from a pharmacy. But if you have a strange groin infection, it would be wise to see a doctor or go to a sexual health clinic.


It is not unusual for your penis to have an odour. Then again if you feel the scent has changed or grown stronger, it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

The good news though is that most conditions are not serious and can be easily treated. For example, men who are uncircumcised may develop skin cell buildup underneath their foreskin. This is often the result of poor hygiene and can lead to infection. Therefore practicing good hygiene is usually all it takes to clear up an unusual odour.

This being said, you should see your doctor right away if you experience:

  • A buildup of white chunks around your penis
  • Rash around your penis, genital area, anus, or thighs
  • Burning or pain when you urinate
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Itching or irritation
  • Redness or swelling


body odour signals serious health problems

Body odour signals serious health problems includes the vagina as a possible carrier of offensive odour. Although your vagina has its own unique natural smell, sex, your period, or sweating may briefly change it. And not cleaning properly or leaving a tampon in for too long can also cause odours.

Thus, abnormal vaginal odour that happens because of infection or another problem is usually associated with other vaginal symptoms such as itching, burning, irritation or discharge.  

Accordingly, in order to minimise vaginal odour:

  • Wash your outside vagina area. During regular baths or showers, use a very small amount of mild, unscented soap and lots of water.
  • Shun douching. All healthy vaginas contain bacteria and yeast. The normal acidity of your vagina keeps bacteria and yeast in check. When you douche you upset this delicate balance.

The final advice is to see your doctor if concerned about abnormal or persistent vaginal odour. The possibility is there that it could be a sign of infection or another condition, especially if it comes with itching, burning, or discharge. Bacterial vaginosis and the sexually transmitted infection (STI) Trichomoniasis also causes odour. While less common, cervical or vaginal cancer can also change your vagina’s smell.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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