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Too Early For Deodorant?

My 7-year-old's armpits smell! Is she already going through puberty? And can she use deodorant?

I've seen kids as young as 2 with smelly armpits. Some children just sweat more than other kids. Others seem to have more bacteria on their skin, which cause stinkiness by breaking down chemicals in sweat.

But most of us don't get underarm odor until puberty, when the sweat glands there become active. So you should get your daughter checked out by her doctor, since she could be going through early puberty. He'll look for other signs, such as breast development, pubic or underarm hair, or a growth spurt; if he finds them, he may recommend a visit with an endocrinologist to help slow it down. Rarely, smelly sweat can also be a sign of a metabolic problem, which, again, your doctor can detect.

If your daughter's been checked out and doesn't have either of those issues, try dusting baby powder under her arms—it's drying and smells nice, too. If that isn't enough, you can try an adult deodorant, but look for one that doesn't have an antiperspirant in it, since it can irritate the skin.

Claire McCarthy, M.D. is the director of pediatrics at the Martha Eliot Health Center, in Jamaica Plain, MA, and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She's also busy raising five children.