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Quiz: Are You in the Dark About Body Odor?

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When it comes to embarrassing medical problems, body odor is near the top of almost everyone’s list. So what can you do to make sure that you don’t become a victim of BO…or victimize your friends with your own foul odors? Take this quiz and see how much you know about body odor…

The medical term for body odor is

The medical term for body odor is bromhidrosis. This was a tricky question because the other terms, which may be more familiar to you, are related—halitosis, for example, is bad breath…bromodosis is smelly feet…and hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that can affect various parts of the body. If your body odor is causing you distress…the smell has changed…or if you suddenly begin to sweat much more than usual (during the day or at night), see your doctor to make sure that you don’t have a treatable medical condition. Certain conditions may cause distinct odors—diabetes, for example, may lead to a fruity smell, while liver or kidney disease can lead to an ammonia-like odor. While you’re there, you may want to impress your doc with your new vocabulary word: bromhidrosis!

Body odor is caused by

Bacteria—not sweat—are the culprits. Contrary to popular belief, sweat itself does not cause body odor. Here's why: Your body has two main types of sweat glands, and they produce two very different types of perspiration. Both types are odorless, but the type of sweat produced in your armpits and groin smells bad when the bacteria on your skin break down the acids in your perspiration. You can get rid of excess skin bacteria by—you guessed it!—bathing or showering daily (with soap and warm water to eliminate bacteria) and using a deodorant or antiperspirant afterward.

Who tends to have more body odor?

Anyone who has reached the age of puberty can get stinky. That’s because the apocrine sweat glands, which produce the sweat that bacteria can quickly break down, develop when a person reaches this milestone. But men are more likely than women to have body odor, because they tend to sweat more. Whether you use a roll-on, solid stick, cream, gel or spray antiperspirant is mostly a matter of preference. Some people feel that roll-ons are more effective than liquid sprays.

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Things that can make body odor worse include

Being overweight can contribute to more sweating, which gives your body's natural bacteria more protein to break down, causing more odor. Spicy foods and some medications, such as antidepressants and the seizure medication topiramate (Topamax), can make body odor worse because they can cause your normally odorless perspiration to smell bad. Try to limit the amount of spicy foods you eat, such as curry, as well as garlic and onions. Also: Evidence suggests that eating a lot of red meat tends to make body odor worse! Obviously, you cannot stop taking any necessary medications, but talk to your doctor if you think a drug may be causing your BO. He/she may be able to find an equally effective drug that will not produce this side effect.

A visit to the doctor for unpleasant body odor will likely include all of the following, except

Your doctor will probably not do a stress test, but will ask about your medical history and conduct a physical exam. He may also order blood and/or urine tests to determine if your problem is being caused by an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, an infection or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Which of the following is TRUE?

Antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores, so they can reduce both perspiration and odor. Deodorants eliminate odor but not perspiration. They're usually alcohol-based and turn your skin acidic, making it less attractive to bacteria. Deodorants may also contain fragrances intended to mask odor. If over-the-counter antiperspirants (such as Certain Dri or SweatBlock) don't help control your sweating and body odor, your doctor may prescribe a stronger, prescription-based product containing higher amounts of aluminum chloride (such as Drysol or Xerac AC). Prescription antiperspirants, however, can be very strong and cause irritated, tingly or itchy skin in some people.

Should you be concerned about the aluminum often found in antiperspirants? Some scientists have theorized that this ingredient may contribute to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but the research has been mixed and there have been no consistent findings confirming a link to either condition. Caution: People with kidney disease may have difficulty eliminating aluminum from their bodies. In addition, concerns have been raised that parabens, used as a preservative in some antiperspirants and deodorants, may increase breast cancer risk. The evidence is inconclusive, but some research suggests that parabens can promote the growth of certain breast cancer cells. If you prefer to not use an antiperspirant or deodorant with aluminum or parabens, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that researches consumer items’ effects on human health, lists a number of such products.

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Source: National Health Service, Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, Alzheimer’s Association, Environmental Working Group. Date: February 9, 2018
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