Nature did not give the human body the pleasant odors she gave to the flowers-a situation partially rectified by perfume manufacturers. Although human sweat has practically no odor. it rather quickly develops one due to chemical changes produced by the ever-present bacteria on the skin.
Such odorous changes are particularly likely to occur on the feet and between the toes, where a variety of organisms flourish, By removing the accumulation of materials on the skin surface (as well as many of the organisms), ordinary soap-and-water cleanliness makes a substantial contribution to decreasing odor.
Even more improvement can be achieved by using cleansing agents containing a medication known as hexachlorophene; this is a germ-killing agent which has a residual effect. Thus, when such substances are used day after day, the bacterial count of the skin diminishes markedly. (Hexachlorophene is the active ingredient often used by surgeons in scrubbing up prior to operations.) It is not generally necessary to use such agents over the entire surface, but they may be useful in special areas such as the feet, the groin, and the armpits. In the latter site the problem is further complicated by the presence of special glands whose secretion has a rather pungent odor. All individuals possess these glands, and in women, they have been shown to undergo changes throughout the menstrual cycle.
Most sprays, ointments. and liquids applied to the armpits contain aluminum salts. These decrease perspiration considerably and are sometimes combined with other agents which will decrease odor. Most of them work quite satisfactorily, although in individuals who perspire freely from the armpits, and especially in hot weather, more frequent applications may be necessary. A few individuals present special difficulties because of a condition of excessive perspiration, known as hyperhidrosis; the doctor may be able to suggest some special agents for controlling this.
Menstrual odors are by no means as common nor as marked as some hypersensitive women think. Appropriate powdering and frequent changes of napkins are of value. In some instances a tampon may be of further help. Masking scents (perfumes and powders with a pleasant odor of their own) can be helpful in concealing an objectionable odor.