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Body odour is giving me sleepless nights

Body odour is giving me sleepless nights

I take a shower every morning and evening, but the odour won’t go away.

Dr Flo, I take a shower every morning and evening (after work), but I still have body odour that won’t go away. I have tried using sprays and antiperspirants to no avail. I consulted a dermatologist who gave me bioselenium, but it didn’t work. I even took an HIV test thinking it was the cause of the smell, but I am HIV-negative. I can’t use matatus comfortably and my self-esteem is dented. This problem is giving me sleepless nights. Is it a common problem and what is causing it? Please advise me. Njogu


Dear Njogu,

The bad smell from your body, or body odour, is known as bromhidrosis. Everyone has body odour and it occurs due to the bacteria on the skin breaking down acids in sweat. It becomes significant after puberty due to development of the apocrine sweat glands.

Men tend to have worse body odour than women because they tend to sweat more. If you sweat excessively (hyperhidrosis), you may have more body odour, especially in the feet (bromodosis), or armpits (axillary osmidrosis).

Body odour can be worse if you are obese; you take alcohol, spicy foods or garlic; if you are taking some medications e.g. antidepressants; or if you have some illnesses like diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, some cancers.

There is a rare genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria which causes someone to have a fishy odour.

You can also apply aluminium chloride solutions or 0.5% glycopyrolate solution on your armpits, preferably in the evening just as you are going to sleep, to reduce how much you sweat the following day.

Some other procedures that can be done to the most affected areas include iontophoresis, which utilises an electric current run through the skin; use of anticholinergic medication; or intra-dermal injection with botulinum. These should be done by a skin specialist (dermatologist).


Dr Flo, I take care of my sick brother who is aged below 30 years. He can’t walk because both legs are weak and he can’t stand on his own since 2014.

He trembles when he stands and he uses a urinary catheter because he can’t control his urine.

He has a burning sensation on his legs and bottom, and his back aches. If he puts his legs in hot water, they jerk. He also sweats around his head.

His medical condition has rendered me financially unstable and I am almost depressed. My mum can’t assist because she is mentally sick.

What might my brother be suffering from and can he get free treatment or any help? Dolyn


Dear Dolyn,

Your brother is suffering from a nerve disorder, either due to a problem in the brain or in the spinal cord, affecting the nerves going to his bladder and to his lower limbs.

This can be caused a wider range of illnesses and he needs to see a neurologist (a nerve specialist) so that proper tests can be done and he can get proper diagnosis and treatment.

This can be done at Kenyatta National Hospital, on referral from your local health facility. You can get him NHIF cover so that he can be seen at government facilities or at NHIF-accredited facilities at no cost.

Since you are taking care of a sibling with a serious chronic illness, you have a parent with a chronic illness and you also have financial strains, you are bound to feel stretched physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.

It would be good for you to reach out to other family members or members of your community e.g. the church, for help with taking care of your brother and for other support. It would also be beneficial for you to see a counsellor.


Dr Flo, I am 26 years old and single. Since November last year, I noticed that my erection doesn’t happen spontaneously like it used to, especially in the morning, and when it does it is not as strong as it used to be and it lasts for just two to three minutes.

I have never masturbated. I am currently hunting for a job and I find myself stressed all the time. I also sleep for long hours because I am idle. Might there be a problem? Zakaria


Dear Zakaria,

Having a problem with achieving an erection once in a while is not a cause for concern. However, if it persists, it may be due to either a physical and/or a psychological issue.

You may have a physical problem that is affecting the quality of your erections e.g. reduced testosterone levels, heart disease, high cholesterol levels, blocked blood vessels (atherosclerosis), diabetes mellitus, hypertension, nerve problems, some hypertension medicine, sleep disorders, obesity, alcoholism, smoking or other drug use, injuries to the spinal cord or pelvic region, Peyronie’s disease (formation of scar tissue in the penis).

It may also be due to psychological issues like stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, etc.

An urologist can help you figure out the source of the problem and a solution for it. In the meantime, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep (seven to eight hours a day), avoid alcohol and cigarettes, and find a way to manage the stress.

You may also benefit from pelvic floor exercises: contract the pelvic muscles as though you are stopping the flow of urine.

You can practise this to identify the specific muscles by stopping the urine mid-flow when you are urinating. Contract these muscles for about 10 seconds, 10 times in one set, six to 10 sets a day.


Send your medical questions to [email protected] for absolutely free expert advice