Why Do I Have Strong Underarm Odor?

Question:

Why do I have strong under arm odor? I bathe all the time and it is still there, even after I put underarm stuff on. What can I do, since this is very embarassing?

Signed,

Embarassed

Answer:

Dear Embarassed:

You will probably find it very helpful to check with a medical doctor to see if there is a medical reason for your situation. Also a doctor can give you a prescription for a stronger antiperspirant than you can buy in a store.

If you are young, especially if you are a young woman, you may be having more problems than normal because of hormonal issues. There may be something a doctor can give you to help you with the problem. There are also other medications than can be taken that may help with sweating. I really encourage you to do that, if nothing else is helping.

Sweat odor is caused by bacteria that is produced by perspiration. The best way to get rid of sweat odor is to stop the sweat or to reduce it to such an extent that the odor does not build up before you change clothes and shower.

The following list seems complicated, but it is not. It is simply a way to reduce the sources of odor and to keep you fresh longer.

1. Make sure your shirts and sweaters are clean every time you wear them. Dry cleaning will not take out sweat odors, usually only washing will do that. But, if you dry clean some items, tell the cleaner to treat the underarm areas for odor.

Wash your washable clothes, putting a prewash, extra detergent or an antibacterial soap under the arms and letting that set for ten minutes or more.

Then use a toothbrush or similar brush to brush the soap into the seams of the underarm area on your clothes. Wash and rinse thoroughly. The idea is to kill the bacteria that is in the seams of the clothing.

2. Never try to wear a shirt or sweater more than one day–it may not smell badly when you check it, but once it becomes warm from your body it will smell sweaty no matter how clean you are. Some people can get by with doing that, but if you have a problem with sweat, you cannot!

3. Avoid wearing polyster blouses and shirts since they hold the sweat and bacteria. Some of the worst smelling people I have talked to about their problem, wore polyster knit shirts that hold sweaty smells even after they are washed. Women who wear polyster blouses and dresses and often can have an offensive odor because of it.

4. Shower all over and use antibacterial soap or a lot of suds under each arm and all around the arm area. Underarm hair collects the bacteria, which is why men usually smell more sweaty than women. Many men have found that shaving part or all of their underarm hair helps them stop the sweat smell.

Shower at night, dry the underarms well, then put antiperspirant all over and around the underarm area and apply a light dusting of antibacterial powder.

Many people find that using a light dusting of foot powder helps stop the sweaty bacteria under their arms, because most foot powder is designed to help the odor of feet and to kill bacteria that grows there.

5. Deodorant does not stop perspiration, only an antiperspirant will help reduce sweat. Even an antiperspirant will not stop sweat completely, especially if you do hard work or work in hot condition.

You MUST use the strongest antiperspirant you can get. That is another reason to talk to a doctor, since he or she may have something of medical strength to recommend. Otherwise, ask a druggist if he or she knows which is the strongest of the antiperspirants sold in the store. Usually antiperspirants for men are a bit stronger.

Get an unfragranced kind, because someone who sweats a lot may find the mix of fragrance and sweat is even worse than just the sweat. And many people are allergic to the fragrance and are bothered by it when others are wearing it. Do not wear cologne to cover up odor.

6. When you get up in the morning, shower again if you need to and repeat the process of antiperspirant and powder. If you do not need to shower again, apply more antiperspirant and more powder before you put on your clothes.

If you have sweat during the night you will need to at least suds under your arms and dry them thoroughly before putting on antiperspirant and powder.

7. Avoid clothes that make you hot and sweaty, if you can. Do not wear layers of clothes unless the weather really requires it. Keep the armpit area loose if you can, so sweat can evaporate away.

8. If you work in a situation where you can do it, go into a bathroom when you feel that you have been sweating, to freshen up. Buy some anti-bacterial handwipes and wipe under your arms and apply more antiperspirant and powder. Or suds under your arms with a cloth and dry thoroughly before apply antiperspirant and powder, just as you would do at home.

9. Some men wear t-shirts under their regular shirts and change that during the day, since it is the t-shirt that often collects the sweaty smell. Some women wear dress shields they pin into their blouses or sweaters, and change those during the day.

Both men and women with very difficult sweaty problems sometimes keep an extra shirt or blouse at work and change completely mid-day.

10. Avoid food that tends to create sweat and especially that create more odor than usual. Among those are any spicy foods, garlic and onions.

Recently I talked to a man who did most of these things and he said he had been free from odor for months and it was a great feeling to not worry about it.

He said it was a lot of work at first, but then he got into a routine and now he is in the habit of showering and putting on antiperspirant and foot powder at least twice a day.

He said he also found out that his closet smelled badly from having sweaty shirts in there for years, so he completely cleaned his closet after taking all the clothes out of it and airing them out and washing them.

Then, he made a point of never putting a dirty shirt in the closet again. His dirty clothes are kept next to the washing machine so the smell doesn’t get into his clean clothes.

I hope those ideas will help you and that you will talk to a doctor if you have a problem that is more severe than these things can help.

Best wishes to you!

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Is There A Law About Bad Smells?

Question:

Does the law state anywhere that is there is a bad smell eg, moldy milk or feces that workers can go home?

Signed,

Holding My Nose

Answer:

Dear Holding My Nose:

I see that you are from outside the U.S., so there may be a different law there. However, the key in most places is not the smell but the cause of the smell and whether it is harmful to humans. If a smell is temporary (an accident or unexpected problem) most employers find it easier to let people leave for an afternoon or day, than to have them not working because they more focused on the bad smell. But, they are usually not required to let employees leave under those circumstances.

If a smell is bad and is going to stay that way beecause of the nature of the work (a sewage plant, dog food company or similar business) or because of area smells (a feed lot or fertilizer plant nearby) the employees will need to work with the employer to find ways to reduce the offensiveness of it. (Vents, fans and room freshners, for example.) But, if the smell is caused by something unhealthy (toilets overflowing, open pipes with sewage gas, spoiled food or bacteria-producing agents) then the health and safety laws may be involved.

So, first identify what is causing the smell and find out if it is harmful. Then, check with the appropriate government resource to see if there is a law about it. In the United States that would be Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Department of Labor for each state.

In the meantime, is there any way to lessen the odor in your work area? Consider lowering the temperature of the room somewhat. Fans that keep air moving will help. Use plug-in fragrances that aren’t sickeningly strong themselves. Light a fragranced candle or use a fragrance oil if that is allowed in your work area. Even such things as using a fragranced hand lotion or putting a dab of fragranced lotion on your face, can be helpful.

Or, perhaps the area where the odor is coming from can be vented better or could have something done to help it.

One thing is for sure, law or no law, no one can work as well if they are grossed out by a smell. But, how that smell is handled varies according to the circumstances. Work with other employees, your employer and any government resource you have, to make things better. Don’t just talk to your immediate supervisor if that isn’t being helpful. Go as high in the company as you have to, to make sure people are aware of the problem.

If you are writing because you are an employer and wonder what to do about complaints, this material is just as applicable.

Best wishes with this problem!

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Allergic To Fragrance But She Brings Her Dog?

Question:

Wwhere I work an employee states she needs it to be fragrance free but yet she brings her dog to work.

Signed,

Suspicious

Answer:

Dear Suspicious:

Apparently you wonder how someone could have a fragrance allergy but still have a dog nearby. It’s quite possible, since fragrances that cause allergic responses are often chemical or plant based (as with flowers.) Usually the allergic reaction to pets is from a reaction to their dander (hair and skin flakes) and not to their overall fragrance–though that may be noticeable, and offensive to some people, although they are not allergic to it.

I would imagine, if the employee brings a dog to work, it is an assisting dog, used for sight, hearing or assistance in some other way–or perhaps it is being trained for that purpose. Likely there will be nothing you can do about that. But, you will need to comply with the ban on fragrances. Fragrance-free is actually not possible of course, since almost everything in a workplace has a fragrance. But, many people have strong reactions to strong fragrances, so the best solution is to work to eliminate as many of them as possible. If you look at our archives you’ll see we get many letters complaining about the over-use of perfume, fragranced candles, strong hand lotions, even highly fragranced deodorant. The view generally is held that no one HAS to wear a fragrance or have fragranced items at work. They can use it all they want at home, just not at work. But someone who is allergic to fragrances should not be made to suffer because someone wants the right to use fragrances in any setting.

If the dog is bothersome because of an odor, or if someone is allergic to the dog for some reason, that is usually handled by moving the work area of the person who is bothered.

This issue of fragrances is a relatively small one and not worth drawing a line in the dirt over at work, because you won’t win the fight. As with similar situations, the easiest thing to do is focus on work and put the frustration of this behind you.

Best wishes.

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Suggestion About Fragrance In The Workplace

Question:

I wrote this to give to our lab’s “committee” as a suggestion. Maybe you would like to use it, too. For people with allergies and severe sensitivities, the smell of many perfumes, colognes, and aftershaves causes severe reactions including burning eyes, headaches, sinus congestion, sore throats and hives. If you have such an allergy or sensitivity, it is often more than a nuisance: it can cause actual impairment. It is also a real distraction.

The wearing of scent is not a necessity in modern times when daily baths, showers and antiperspirant / deodorant certainly eliminate body odor as a problem.

If you knew someone who works with you is allergic to flowers, would you bring in a fresh bouquet every day? If you knew that a coworker has an allergy to peanuts, would you eat peanuts next to them or sneak them into a potluck lunch? Flowers and peanuts are wonderful things that many people enjoy immensely, but they are pretty easy to do without for the few hours we are at work, if it means the difference between a coworker being sickened or not.

Perfumes, colognes and after-shaves are the same.

It would be great if everyone here (and new workers, as soon as they come on board) could be made to understand this concept, and would perhaps agree to make this a fragrance-free workplace.

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Smelly!

Question:

Co-workers pass gas in our eating area.What can I do?

Signed,

Disgusted

Answer:

Dear Disgusted:

Since you use the plural “co-workers”, I assume you think or know more than one individual is guilty. What have you done so far? Held your breath, moved, give a dirty look to the co-workers you knew or thought passed gas? I assume from your “What can I do? question that whatever you did, did not stop the foul flatulence.

I think you must know your options and have written us because you do not want to directly confront the individuals about this personal offense, and it is an offense. If you cannot hold your breath or temper longer and are serious about solving this problem, you have options.

Six options, as far as I know, are: 1. Stop eating in the place with the guilty co-workers. If the eating area is not large enough to move to the other side of the room, when the weather is good eat outside or on the steps inside or some vacant place. 2. Frankly express your displeasure at the moment you hear or smell a “fart.” Say something like, “Phew! (Grab your nose.) Please control yourself, John or Jane. We’re eating. Such smells and food do not go together.” If you know the co-workers have a habit of such, you might add, “Please, this has been going on too frequently. Stop it. Go to the restroom when you need to let out gas.” 3. Speak privately to the offenders. Kindly but firmly tell them that you are offended and ask them to please excuse them selves the next time they need to expel gas. 4. Write a note to the individuals you think are guilty. Make it anonymous or sign your name (I prefer not hiding). 5. At a staff meeting, without mentioning names, express your unhappiness with the problem. Just as you would describe what you find unmannerly to specific co-workers, say, “While we were eating last Friday (or whenever), I did not enjoy my food because someone expelled gas. I know that occasionally an accident of this sort will occur, but this has happened several times this month. This has got to stop. Need I say more? I don’t mean to condemn anyone, and I apologize if whomever is guilty feels upset. But this kind of smell is not acceptable in our eating area.” Chose your own words, be firm with anger in your voice, but not out of control. You can be both pleasant and firm. 6. Speak to your supervisor and ask him/her to deal with this problem. This is one of the unpleasant kinds of confrontations a supervisor should handle. As a manager, I have not had to deal with this sort of problem, but I handled a similar problem privately with an individual who consumed so much raw garlic that others did not want to be in the same room with him. I had to speak to him about it a second time. It was a habit of his culture. Also I scheduled a follow up date to tell him when the room smelled better and that others and I appreciated his restraint.

Please consider the pros and cons of each of these options, or if none of them suit you, put on your thinking cap and find a more creative solution. Will you get back to tell us what you chose to do and what worked or failed? It might take all the courage, tact, and persistence you have. And the guilty might react defensively and retaliate by finding something about which to blame you. So be sure to wash your hands before leaving a restroom, be on time, do good work, and keep a sense of humor. Do not be obsesses with what is wrong, focus most of your thoughts about what can make work easier for your work group and more effective for your customers. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

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When the BOSS has the BO?

Question:

All advice seems right on and a tough job of the boss or the HR person. But what to do when the offensive odor emanates from the boss? She is a phenominal person, a great boss, and I guess an old hippie who wears the same clothing day in and day out. Could be she has several of the same outfits…but they aren’t laundered frequently enough.

This is not a subject I feel comfortable addressing-and while this could be an excuse, I feel the conversation should be initiated by one of her friends, or someone else she has worked with for longer than the 9 months I’ve been here. This a a non-profit, Senior Center in a small rural community. She has fought a long hard battle to get this center on its feet and there are a couple of board members who have been trying to get her gone for quite some time. How unfortunate for everyone if the BO issue overshadows all the marvelous accomplishments! HELP!!!!

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My Bookkeeper Stinks!! Bad!

Question:

Please help me. I work in a very small office. There is my boss, myself and our bookkeeper. Our bookkeeper has worked for us for nearly two years now and we have dealt with his stentch for just that long. My boss and I both are aware of his problem and practically discuss it on a daily basis. We find ourselves avoiding him and his office at all costs because the smell is really unbareable. I’m afraid at times I’m even rude to him but only because i need to get away quickly because it’s so bad i litereally feel like i may vomit. I would describe the smell to you in great detail but it’s very discusting. We don’t know what to do. We are at our wits end and we have let it go on for way to long now. Personally i think our bookkeeper is a great guy and does a tremendous job for us. I don’t want to embarrass him or hurt his feelings but I just CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! Any suggestions? Thanks. Sincerely, Holding my Nose

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Something Fishy!

Question:

I am writing in connection with a bad smell that has suddenly appeared in the workplace. We are a 3 story office building with a central hall housing the lift shaft. On each floor the lift doors open up onto a hall way and on the ground floor and 1st floor there are air con units in the roof directly outside the lift – but not on the top floor. I have checked the drains, the gutters and under the reception desk but cannot find the source of the smell. Air freshener disguises this smell for a short time – but it is really resilient. To describe the smell – fishy, musty, like stinky feet.

Please give me some suggestions of what it could be and what I can do to get rid of the smell. My boss won’t spend money to call in a contractor, so it’s down to me to solve. Thank you

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Sleeping, Smelly Co-worker!

Question:

I work for the County Government in Florida. There is a woman in our office that has worked there for over twenty years and makes about $50,000 per year. In addition to coming in late, talking sometimes up to two hours for lunch, and possessing a foul body odor every day, she neglects her job duties, spends little time at her desk and for the past two years, has even fallen to sleep at her desk. At first we were amazed. Now we are disgusted.

When management was made aware of it, we were basically asked why we did not wake her up. After a few more complaints, the boss finally confronted her, and she said it was her blood pressure and she would see a doctor and get better. We were then told to leave her alone–she was going to see a doctor.

There is nothing wrong with this woman except for not getting enough sleep. She is an aging lesbian who parties late into the night and simply doesn’t get enough sleep. Now two years later, she is still at it. She actually sets it up so that you wouldn’t know she was sleeping unless you actually walked up to her. She sits at her computer with her hands on the keys and when she is startled hits the print screen button. You would think she was busy. Other times, she will sit at her desk with a sheet of paper in her hand and head down. At first glance, she appears to be studying the paper; however, she is actually sleeping. We told the boss that she is still at it and he had another talk with her. He told her that this couldn’t continue. He said, “If I hear of it again, you will be written up and if again, you will be terminated.” We were pleased. However, two days later, she went into his office crying, and told him the reason she sleeps is because of a “medical condition”. She was never asked to get any kind of doctor’s excuse, nothing. However, we were asked to “let up” on her because after all, we are all getting older and have had medical conditions. Yes, we have all experienced “medical conditions;” however, sleeping on the job is not one of them.

I am so disgusted with this situation, it is affecting my life. I carry it home with me and moan to my husband. I am writing to you today because I cannot get it out of my mind. Other than this woman, this is the best job I’ve ever had. I need to get past this, but I am having a hard time doing it. I believe the County is putting up with this because they are afraid she will sue them for and “Old Age” thing. But basically, they have let us know she is “hands off”. As a co-worker and taxpayer, I am just disgusted.

P.S. During a training seminar recently, we were all asked what we thought were our best qualities. When it came to her, she stated that her “honesty” was her best quality.

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BO In School?

Question:

I’m a high school student. Lately I noticed that some people are annoyed by the way I smell. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because of the heat that’s in the classroom. But it’s still winter now, and I feel so self-conscious when it comes to these things. I’ve asked my friends if it’s true, but they say, “No.” I feel like it’s only when the classroom gets humid that I smell. A guy, who sits behind me in math, keeps trying to kick my seat up away from him and then people start to sniff over and over like they have a cold or something. But I honestly don’t smell anything and neither do some people. I feel so embarrassed that I don’t even want to go to school. Please help me solve this problem.

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