What’s that smell?
Feel like you smell a bit fruity from time to time? Or maybe you’re blissfully unaware but wonder why people cross the street or hold their breath when they’re in your slipstream. Don’t be a nasal nuisance; find out how to nail nasty niffs in their tracks...
What is personal hygiene? Personal hygiene is all about keeping clean and ‘grooming’ the outside of your body.
Good personal hygiene is essential for many reasons. For starters, it helps with the prevention and spread of infections and illnesses, along with bad smells or odours.
A bath – why bother? Not having a basic level of hygiene can have unpleasant results. You’re more likely to get ill or develop infections if you don’t take care of yourself. Plus you’re more likely to put other people off and not feel as good about yourself.
Jared, 17, didn’t notice that avoiding the bathwater was making his friends’ eyes water. But something had to change or he’d soon have been left alone in his own stinky cloud.
“My mates told me in the end that I was kicking up a bit. I hadn’t realised – it’s like when you put aftershave on, you can’t smell it after a while. I’d got used to my own smell. Now I’ve got the problem sorted,” he admits.
Who has the potential to pong? Bad smells are a common problem in adults and young people. When your body changes during puberty you may notice you have more body odour.
Everybody sweats – it’s the body's way of making sure that we don't overheat. Your body has over three million sweat glands so it’s not surprising this can create odours if you don’t keep things in check.
The bacteria live off the grease and dead skin that seep out of your glands. Sweat smells are neutral to start with, but then it mixes with bacteria, which causes the odour.
But you don’t have to be whiffy – experts have spent thousands of hours dreaming up ways to beat the pongs. They’ve also got plenty of practical advice for us.
Dr Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, of the Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene says: “One of the most important ways to have good personal hygiene is to make a daily habit of cleaning the potentially smelly body areas.
"A lot of young people worry about personal hygiene – but it's mostly common sense and following simple rules."
Sweat shopThe cheapest, easiest and fastest way of stopping the smell of body odour is by washing daily (at least your face, armpits and genitals).
If your armpits are a bit ripe, or from time-to-time remind you of the local squash courts, it might be time to invest in some deodorant or antiperspirant.
Fetid feetYour feet carry your entire body weight and walk an average of 8,000-10,000 steps each day. We often forget what our feet do for us, and don’t thank them by keeping them clean or getting help when there is a foot problem like verrucas and athlete’s foot.
Private parts Some people’s undercarriages tend to smell quite strong naturally, even when they’re squeaky clean. As long as there is no sign of infection, there’s no need to worry.
Here’s how to keep these areas in tip-top shape...
LadiesDon’t be obsessive about washing downstairs. Over-cleaning of the vagina can in fact be harmful and once a day is generally enough. You don’t need to clean the inside of your vagina with soap as it is already naturally balanced – you could disturb the balance if you interfere.
You don’t need to wash any more frequently when you have your period if you’re using appropriate protection. You might find avoiding thongs at this time helpful. Even though you can often find them in chemists and supermarkets, vaginal perfumes and deodorants are not necessary.
GentlemenYour penis, scrotal area and anus, only needs washing once a day. Don’t try to clean inside the urethra – this could be damaging.
If you are not circumcised, make sure the head of your penis is cleaned carefully. Gently pull back the foreskin and with warm water wash the area to remove smegma. If this builds up, it can cause a nasty odour and put you at risk of infection. Make sure the foreskin is back in its normal position after washing.
Do not apply aftershaves or deodorants directly to the genital area.
Underwear updateEveryone should always sport fresh underpants/knickers and socks/tights every day (natural fibres, like cotton are great as they let the skin breathe).
Gross factsYour urine is odourless until after it comes out of your body. What you smell then is ammonia, the same stuff you clean with.
The germs present in human faeces (poo) can pass through up to ten layers of toilet paper.
Badger breath Concerned that you could sink a prawn trawler with what comes out of your airways?
Force four halitosis not only makes others recoil, it seriously interferes with your pulling power. However, remember that chewing gum is only a temporary solution.
Breath test If you’re worried you might have hideous halitosis, try this test. Lick the back of your hand with your tongue. Now let this dry. Next smell this patch of skin. Neutral? No problem. Not nice? Time to take action.
In hospitalIf you have a spell in hospital you may find it difficult to wash yourself and be dependent on staff and visitors to look after your hygiene for a while. If necessary get your family to bring in some of your products from home.
If you have plaster casts or surgical incisions then you will need to accept the help of others for a while.
Try not to be embarrassed about this – it happens to everyone at some point in their life.
Sarah, 14, wasn’t best pleased when she got stuck in hospital.
“I hated not being able to wash myself when I had my surgery. But the nurses were great and made sure I was always clean. I found having wet wipes by my bed really handy too, “she says.
Disability and hygieneCertain disabilities can make it difficult for you to take care of your own hygiene which can be frustrating. Make sure you speak to your GP about your hygiene needs and any equipment you may need for your family home. Social services may be able to help with any extra costs.
Going overboardAt the other end of the spectrum, some people go too far with the hygiene thing. People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD, often wash far more than is necessary, using harsh cleaning products. If you think you may have symptoms of OCD, see your GP to discuss this with them.
Stay freshSo now you know where and how often to spruce up, there’s no excuse. Make sure you don’t wait for the ‘there’s something you should know’ conversation to rear its ugly head. Head for the shower instead...