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LifestyleColumnistsBeth Whitehouse

Parental guidance: When kids need deodorant

What is the appropriate age to start using deodorant? I have an 8-year-old boy, and he is producing a bad odor in his armpits when he sweats, especially after sports. Also, please tell me the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant and which is the better choice for kids.

 

When to start deodorant varies with each child, says Dr. Joel Spitz, a pediatric and adult dermatologist in Williston Park and a professor at Columbia University. There's no danger to using a product at 8, he says. But if children need deodorant at age 5 or 6, Spitz would recommend seeing a doctor to make sure they aren't going through precocious puberty - the premature onset of puberty, usually defined as before age 8 in girls and before the age 9 in boys. "If there's a need for one at that age, there could be a more systemic medical issue," he says.

Be aware of a possible allergic reaction of localized redness, itching or eruptions in the armpits, Spitz says. In that case, chose a hypoallergenic product such as Almay or Dove, he suggests. Boys and girls can use the same products, though some are marketed toward girls with a more feminine fragrance.

Deodorants cover the smell; antiperspirants work to stop the sweat.

As for which to choose, doctors have varying opinions on whether it matters. Dr. Ronald Marino, associate chairman of the department of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, says he advocates deodorant because antiperspirants may contain aluminum, which can be absorbed into the system, and he prefers children avoid exposure to even a small amount.

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