Baby Armpit Red & Smelly? Here’s Why!

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One of the reasons why babies are so attractive is because they are cute and pristine. But, if your baby’s armpits begin to smell in addition to the redness of their armpits, you might be concerned as a parent. Most parents would think that a proper bath or increasing bathing frequency would eliminate the odd stink and redness in their baby’s armpit. 

However, is bathing the only reason behind the red and smelly armpits of your baby? As a parent, you should be sensitive about the odor changes in your baby’s body. If your infant’s armpits smell funny and look red, we suggest you dig deeper. 

This post talks about all the reasons why your baby’s armpits are red and smelly. In addition to that, we’ve suggested a few safe methods to deal with red and pungent-smelling baby armpits.

baby skin

Image Credits: Happy and Healthy Baby Skin 


Why Is My Baby’s Armpit Smelly? 

For adults, stinky armpits can be a result of overactive apocrine glands. When an individual touches puberty, it is natural for the bad odor to arise from their armpits. But, if your newborn or 3-4 month baby suddenly has stinky pits, you might be worried. 

The immediate environment of your baby can lead to smelly armpits. In most cases, you won’t find any biological reasons. It is also possible that an underlying disease is the reason behind the sudden odor. Fish odor syndrome and other rare diseases can cause babies to have stinky armpits. Also, different smells indicate different reasons. We have discussed them below: 


When it Smells Sour 

Sour-smelling armpits are a result of poor hygiene. The sweat and dirt trapped in the folds of the baby’s underarm area are the reasons for this. Thankfully, sour-smelling armpits do not typically indicate any underlying severe infection or skin rash. Parents must aim to keep their baby’s armpits as clean and dry as possible in such situations. 

When it Smells Musty 

Smelly armpits are generally an alarming indication of a bigger trouble. Baby armpits that have a musty smell are a result of PKU or Phenylketonuria. PKU is a metabolic disease that restricts the body’s potential to process amino acid phenylalanine. This amino acid is present in eggs, dairy, nuts, beans, and other high-protein foods. Symptoms of PKU do not develop until the baby turns three months old. You have to visit a doctor to diagnose and treat PKU in your infant. 

When it Smells Like Onions

An onion-smelling baby armpit? Well, it could be the mom’s fault. A breastfeeding mother should be mindful of the food they consume. Specific types of food can lead to an onion-like smell in breast milk. If your tiny tots’ armpits smell like onion, it’s a sign to monitor your diet and cut down on certain foods such as onion and garlic.  

When it Smells Like Cheese

If your baby’s armpits smell like cheese, poor hygiene is again the probable cause behind it. The milk can accumulate in the folds of the armpit’s skin. It then rubs with the skin and causes heat and friction. So, not only does it result in an odd odor but also red and irritated skin. Since this is a hygiene issue, you can quickly treat it. 


Red and Smelly Baby Armpits – Everything About It 


Rashes are one of the most common skin conditions that cause a baby’s armpits to be smelly and red. It is important to mention that there are several types of rashes that might be targeting your baby. Also, most types of rashes have smelly and red armpits as a symptom. Here are the common types of rashes that might affect a baby: 

  • Heat rash
  • Contact dermatitis 
  • Candida 
  • Erythema toxicum
  • Eczema 

If your baby’s dealing with a rash, you should aim to keep the area dry and clean. If the inflammation is present even after 24 hours, consult a doctor for treatment options. Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor might suggest an antibacterial ointment or a mild soap


Baby Armpit Thrush 

Thrush is a specific kind of rash that requires medical attention. If your baby has thrush,it is most likely to have smelly and red armpits as well. Candida is the fungus variant that is responsible for causing this type of rash in kids. You should also know that candida results in diaper rashes, athlete’s foot, and vaginal yeast infections. If the inflammation in your baby’s armpits persists, it’s better to book an appointment with a pediatrician. 

If the doctor diagnoses thrush in your baby’s armpits, they might suggest an antifungal ointment to heal the affected area. You’ll come across many antifungal sprays, creams, and ointments. It is important to note that thrush might take a couple of weeks to heal. 


Armpit Cheese

Earlier, we discussed what cheese odor in a baby’s armpits means. To reiterate, spit and milk trapped in the armpit’s fat folds can cause your baby’s armpits to smell like cheese. And at times, the trapped milk forms a thick layer that leaves a thick white residue. 

This white residue or armpit cheese has a pungent and terrible odor. Moreover, it can irritate your baby’s underarms. As a parent, you might want to take advice to keep your baby free from armpit cheese. Here are some tips for the same: 

  • Be alert and look out for armpit cheese signs. You can control the situation by not letting the white residue build-up and irritate the skin. 
  • Another way to avoid the white build-up is to clean and wipe the armpits every day. If you are treating the armpit of a newborn baby, be gentle and don’t rub fast.  
  • If the doctor approves, you can use talcum powders or moisturizers to care for skin folds in the armpit area. Additionally, refrain from putting tight and thick clothing to avoid excess sweating and skin irritation in babies


Cleaning Baby Armpits 

Poor hygiene is one of the reasons behind armpit redness and smell. Luckily, cleaning your baby’s armpits is a simple task. With little care, you can get rid of this common skin condition. Here are some suggestions on how to go about cleaning baby armpits: 

  • Once every day, cleanse the baby’s armpits with gentle antibacterial soap (recommended by a doctor) and cool or warm water. You can also follow this armpit cleaning routine during baths. Also, take a soft washcloth to remove accumulated dirt between the folds of the armpits. 
  • Always use a soft towel to clean your little one’s armpit area. Instead of scrubbing the towel to dry the skin, use patting motions. Rubbing the towel in sensitive areas causes skin irritation. 
  • To avoid dryness and armpit bacteria, you can use the prescribed antibacterial ointment suggested by a doctor. Alternatively, you can use a moisturizer that is baby-safe. 
  • Lastly, to skip the sweat odor and keep the baby dry, make sure to dress them in loose and breathable clothing. If your baby has a bacterial infection or even common armpit redness, tight clothing can worsen it. 

This armpit cleaning schedule works best for babies with overactive sweat glands.


Should I Be Concerned? 

As a parent, even the slightest changes in your baby’s skin can be problematic. You should know that in most cases, red and smelly armpits are normal. But there are some situations which demand a visit to a doctor. Here’s when you should be concerned about your baby’s red and smelly armpits: 

  • There might be times when those sensitive armpits have a bleeding or raw appearance. If you witness something like this in your baby’s armpit, take your baby to a doctor. The doctor will recommend medications or topical ointments that can tackle the odors and heal the sensitive skin. 
  • If your baby’s armpits have a musty smell, it is not a good sign. It might happen that your baby has tested positive for Phenylketonuria in addition to having a musty armpit smell. In such a scenario, you need to ensure that your baby receives medical treatment. 
  • If you notice any additional symptoms other than the smell and the redness, it is wise to consult a healthcare professional. Lack of energy and activity, dehydration, and irritation in the skin can accompany a smell and red armpit. It is better to have a professional check out these symptoms. 
  • We recommend seeing a pediatrician if nothing seems to heal the baby’s red and smelly armpits. The doctor will closely analyze the condition and spot the source and cause of the redness and odor. In case there’s an underlying condition, going to the doctor is the best solution.  
  • If the redness in the baby’s armpits appears to be a rash, we suggest you seek immediate advice from a professional. The rash might be thrush or Candida. Candida requires an antifungal cream which only a doctor can recommend to your baby. 

Keeping your baby's armpit healthy

Image Credits: Keeping Your Baby’s Armpits Healthy 




Should I Bathe My Baby Daily? 

It would be best if you focused on the quality of each bath and not the frequency. Your baby can have healthy, soft, and fresh smelling skin even if you bathe them just thrice a week. For older babies, you can clean them once a day. 

Bathing your baby too frequently can snap the skin of their natural nourishing oils. Extra rounds of baths might result in dry skin. Conversely, dry skin might lead to eczema, redness, or skin irritation. For newborn babies, one or two baths a week would be more than enough.

Can I Apply a Diaper Rash Cream on Baby’s Red Armpit? 

Many parents think that since diaper rash creams are for a sensitive area, they are also safe for application in other body parts. It is not good to use the diaper rash cream on the baby’s red armpit or any other part of its body.

The first reason you should not use a diaper rash cream on armpit redness is that you don’t know the cause of the latter. On the other hand, if a pediatrician deems a specific diaper rash cream to be safe for your baby’s red armpit, you can apply it worry-free.  

Is My Baby’s Armpit Stink Normal? 

Most of the time, stinky armpits are normal. It means that your baby needs a bath or some cleansing time. It would also depend on the smell of the baby’s armpit. The scent in a baby’s armpit can be due to hormone changes, sweat, or bacteria. 

Babies have soft and fatty skin, which can trap dirt quite often. But, some armpit smells indicate an underlying medical condition. If cleaning and bathing the baby doesn’t work, your baby requires medical attention. 

How to Get Rid of Odor From Baby’s Armpits? 

For adults, armpit odor has multiple solutions. However, a baby’s skin is sensitive. It is best to go with common and mild solutions for treating the armpit smell in babies

You should make sure that your tiny one takes a bath whenever needed. We also recommend using a mild cleansing soap to get rid of the dirt and odor. Also, you can use baby talcum powder to keep the armpits odor-free. 


Wrap Up 

Now that you know the reason behind your baby’s red and smelly armpits, you can act up! Remember that red and smelly armpits are not always a cause for concern. Most of the time, a soothing bath would be enough to bring your baby’s skin back to normal. 

You can take a cue from our tips to clean your baby’s armpit to proceed with this problem in the right way. If the redness and stink persist, it would be best to give your baby’s pediatrician a visit! 

Hopefully, this article helped you waive all your worries about your baby’s red and smelly armpits. 





This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.