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August 1st, 2011
08:05 AM ET

What is that metallic body odor?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Laurie from Florida
Is it normal for a 12-year-old girl who has started her menstrual cycle for the first time, within the last six months to have a pungent, almost metallic, body odor? She gets teased for her smell all the time and we have tried everything to fix it.

Expert answer
Thanks for your question and I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's issue.

Adolescents definitely go through many changes during puberty. Body odors in particular may be caused by an increase in skin oils or sweat coming into contact with dirt, bacteria or dried blood.

Soap, laundry detergent, makeup, lotions and other products can also create pungent smells.

Sometimes such smells can be caused by certain medications or handling or wearing metallic objects. In addition, eating foods such as onions, garlic and strong spices may produce odors not previously noticed prior to puberty.

Is it possible to tell whether the odor is coming from a certain part of the body (nose, mouth, hands, feet, or armpits for example) or from the skin in general? Could it be related to her menstrual cycles?

Does she have any dental appliances in her mouth? Is she wearing certain sports articles regularly (shin guards, etc.) that may be the culprit?

Rarely odors may be a sign of a metabolic disorder or other imbalance, in which case blood or urine tests may be needed. It may be helpful to have your daughter checked out by her pediatrician to rule out a medical cause for the odor.

The doctor may recommend certain antibacterial cleansers or antiperspirants in addition to regular bathing and laundering clothes as well as any medical treatment if necessary.

I hope readers will share their advice for dealing with this type of situation in the comment area below. Good luck!

Follow Dr. Shu on Twitter


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.