Smelly Feet in Children

Nursery rhymes sometimes use the phrase "smelly feet" because childhood is a time when tiny tootsies perspire more compared with adult feet and toes. Moisture encourages bacteria, and that means odor, according to the Children's Hospital Colorado website 5. Banning the odor, or at least keeping the smell under control, requires a daily ritual that you and your child can easily follow to kill the bacteria and keep feet smelling fresh.

Odor Causes

Micrococcus sedentarius bacteria dine on skin oils and dead skin cells. The more oil and skin, the larger the bacteria colony. The bacteria produce organic acid wastes and volatile sulfur compounds that smell like rotten eggs. The Children's Hospital Colorado website notes that between 10 and 15 percent of people produce enough bacteria to create extreme foot odor 5. The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists identifies sweaty and smelly feet as a common childhood problem 3. Keep a positive outlook about the foot problem and focus on ways to avoid odor. Children frequently outgrow excessive foot perspiration, but if they don't, learning the best ways to reduce odor and keep feet healthy helps deal with foot odor problems as an adult.

Footwear Choices

Shoes made of breathable material provide air circulation to discourage bacteria growth. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends shoes made from natural fibers such as canvas, leather or modern mesh materials on the upper part of the footwear 6. Plastic and other synthetic materials keep moisture trapped in the shoe and contribute to smelly feet. Natural fibers, including cotton and ramie, make good choices for socks. Buy several pairs of shoes for your child, and don't allow him to wear the same pair every day. Alternating pairs gives shoes a chance to air out and dry interior moisture. Change his socks every day, and put on a new pair after sports or athletic practice to reduce stink.

Frequent Cleaning

Keeping feet clean helps reduce the amount of bacteria. Child development experts with the Kids Health website recommends washing your child's feet in a tub rather than showering 1. An antibacterial soap also helps kill the germs causing the smell. Take time to carefully dry between his toes to keep bacteria from growing in an area where air can't circulate. Talk to your child's pediatrician about foot powders or disinfectant spray for shoes. Wash your child's socks and shoe inserts with warm water and dry completely before wearing to avoid giving germs a moist place to multiply.

Over-active sweat glands can trigger focal childhood hyperhidrosis, a condition where one part of the body, such as the soles of the feet, experiences excessive sweating 4. Occasionally, infection, chronic disease or hormonal imbalances also cause excess foot sweating. Talk to your child's pediatrician about his sweaty feet to determine whether the condition falls within the range of normal development or is something that requires special treatment.