Can COVID-19 Cause Changes In Your Body Odor?

Having been infected with COVID-19 can cause dramatic changes to your body even after you have recovered. According to the CDC, those having been diagnosed with COVID-19 might sustain post-infection symptoms that could last for weeks, months, or longer, including fatigue, depression, post-exertional malaise, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, and hair loss. Many patients also reported losing a sense of taste and smell during the recovery phase of COVID-19. Looking at reports of post-COVID-19 symptoms, a side effect of COVID-19 that stood out is changes in body odor.

Actually, it's no surprise that being infected with an infectious disease can intensify the usual scent of the body, as increased body odor is often seen as a signal of serious health problems. Empirical evidence from past clinical studies has shown that a number of people affected with certain infectious illnesses have a distinct smell to their bodies, which doctors use as an important metric to put their finger on the condition. For instance, a 1995 article published in the Archives of Dermatological Research shared that those affected with the fungal infection of Candida exude a smell of "heavy sweetness" while those infected with Pseudomonas have a "foul and biting" smell to their body. Internal health issues such as overactive thyroid, kidney and liver diseases, diabetes, gout, and menopause are also linked with changes in the affected person's body scent. So, can COVID-19 give your body any smell?

COVID-19 can make you smell weird

While more research needs to be done to determine if COVID-19 can really leave a distinctive smell on the body, intensified body odor is not to be ruled out as a post-infection change to the body. One study published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology reveals that about one-fourth of COVID-19 patients experience sweating dysfunction, which can take the form of excessive sweating or lack of sweat in response to heat. Either way, the abnormalities in sweating can cause your body to pick up an unpleasant body odor.

According to Cognitive FX, the changes in body odor might be a result of the stimulation in the apocrine glands. Typically associated with hair follicles, apocrine glands can be triggered by the COVID-19-induced changes in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating the body's reaction to traumatic circumstances. Sweat from apocrine glands is thicker and milkier and contains a higher concentration of proteins and fats, which can contribute to a stronger, if not more irritating smell when they're fractionated. Besides, a drop in hygiene standards as a result of living in isolation accompanied by dietary alterations during the pandemic can also lead to a stronger body odor. Usually, sweating dysfunctions, as well as changes in body odor, do not pose any threats to your health. However, if they affect your everyday life, you can take measures to get rid of them.

How to get rid of unpleasant body odor

According to Harvard Medical School, the fastest way to get rid of body odor is to take a shower daily to get bacteria off your skin. Sweating only causes smell when the sweat is mixed with bacteria, so make sure to wash up at least once a day to keep body smell to a minimum, especially after you engage in physical activities. After a shower, swipe an antiperspirant and deodorant on your underarms to repel the bacteria responsible for the offending odor. In case regular deodorants cannot help you control your body odor, consider asking for a prescription-strength antiperspirant for better results. For instance, Drysol and Xerac AC are some popular prescription antiperspirants for the treatment of excessive sweating. Wearing moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics can also release moisture from the skin and prevent you from reeking. 

At the same time, make alterations to your diet. To sweat less and reduce body odor, cut down on alcohol, red meat, spicy foods, dairy products, and allium vegetables such as garlic, onion, leeks, chives, and scallions. To stymie the growth of odor-causing bacteria, consume more citrus fruits, cardamom, and fenugreek. Green tea is also an excellent anti-odor beverage. According to WorkWell, an antioxidant-rich product like green tea can facilitate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that flushes harmful toxins out of your body and helps to prevent body odor as well as bad breath. If you have tried these methods to no avail, consider speaking to a dermatologist for suggestions on advanced treatments, and in certain cases, a surgery.