What could cause sudden super strong arm pit odor?
May 4, 2011 8:05 AM   Subscribe

What could cause sudden super strong arm pit odor that goes away the next morning?

Last night when I went to bed I noticed in the hour afterwards that I had a really super strong musky ripe odor coming from my arm pits. It was literally enough to wake me up. My girlfriend commented on it in the morning and we ended up talking about how strange it was today. I want to identify what might have caused it.

First, let me say that I know I should see a doctor. And I would love to. I like doctors. I even like visiting with them and talking with them. And I love to get feedback and advice on my health from them. But It's midnight here. This isn't an emergency. I don't have any health insurance. I don't have much income. I don't have any savings. I don't have any way to pay a doctor hundreds of dollars. So if your response is going to be "see a doctor", please include reasons for your suggestion that you would think could make me consider seeing a doctor in spite of how difficult that is for a person in this country without insurance. -Thank you

I can't remember a time when I have given off such a rank odor in the recent past. There are three things I can think of that were different yesterday.

I have been working out at the gym for just over a week, and yesterday I took a BCAA supplement for the second time. The first time was over a month ago and there was no body odor change then. I took another dose of the same BCAA this morning and there was no odor today.

I went swimming for the first time at the gym pool yesterday evening. It's a salt water pool. I've swam in oceans, but never in a salt water pool. I rinsed off in the shower after swimming and before doing a heavy resistance work out.

While swimming I felt very strained in the chest. I was pushing a little too hard and my chest was tight. I thought it might be from the water weight since it's been a while since I have swam. But even out of the water I continued to feel tight.

My workout was very heavy with each exercise to failure. This was a slight change from my normal lighter/higher rep workout. I strained a great deal. But did not sweat much if at all. I rarely sweat much. This level of exertion is only slightly higher than my normal workout.

The odor seemed to start getting very strong about 2 hours after I was done with the gym workout, and falling asleep. It peaked sometime in the night, and was totally gone after I showered and didn't return.

I am 35 years old, male, and have 24% body fat. I'm a little out of shape due to mostly neglecting exercise for about a year. But I have no known health problems or risks. My blood tests come back with high triglycerides the last 2 times I had them done in the last 3 years, but nothing else is out of range. My mother has thyroid problems, but my doctor ran tests to check me and found everything normal.

I am concerned that I may have pushed my heart too hard swimming, and then with the weight training afterwards. My chest is still a bit tight today, and I haven't been hungry like normal. I was feeling a little nauseous, but nothing I would normally notice if not looking for it. I can't find anything indicating that strong body odor could suddenly occur from any kind of cardiac event. Though there are known to be substances released to the blood following a heart attack that they look for when testing after a possible attack.

Is is possible to have a strong odor from any kind of cardiac event like a minor heart attack? Could I have released a arterial blockage of fatty deposit and been exuding it?

Could the salty pool water have sucked "toxins" out of my skin? Could the pool water have introduced new bacteria to my skin? Could the heavy weight workout be so different from my normal one that I was getting a higher protein breakdown load causing odor?

I'm just looking for theories here. I will be monitoring my chest very closely and considering visiting a doctor at the first sign of any trouble.

Thank you all for your responses. I'm posting anonymously so I don't attach smelly arm pits, heart attacks, and hypochondriac to my user name. :-) I may not be able to respond to questions since this is an anonymous post. Hopefully I've given enough detail.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe you ate something stinky? If I eat green onions I my pits get an oniony stank.
posted by ian1977 at 8:13 AM on May 4, 2011

Response by poster: Someetimes that happens to me. I have not had a heart attack. Bodies are weird.

Often when you work out pretty hard your chest feels tight, this is normal.
posted by Anonymous at 8:15 AM on May 4, 2011

I went swimming for the first time at the gym pool yesterday evening. It's a salt water pool. I've swam in oceans, but never in a salt water pool. I rinsed off in the shower after swimming and before doing a heavy resistance work out.


The odor seemed to start getting very strong about 2 hours after I was done with the gym workout, and falling asleep. It peaked sometime in the night, and was totally gone after I showered and didn't return.

You sound a little panicked. I am not trying to give you medical advice or tell you you shouldn't go to the doctor, but I want to point out that by far the simplest explanation is that it is something to do with exercising in salt water, which is really the thing you haven't done before. Maybe it interacted with your body chemistry oddly, maybe it interacted with your deodorant, who knows. But nothing to do with heart attacks or whatever.

Also, what did you eat yesterday?
posted by advil at 8:16 AM on May 4, 2011

Honestly, I think you were dehydrated. You say you don't sweat much usually, so maybe you aren't in the habit of rehydrating after working out? And this time you strained more. The nausea, chest pain and lack of appetite go along with dehydration,too, as does the strong body odor you are worried about.
posted by misha at 8:17 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hard question to answer. IANAD. However from what you wrote what would concern me more than the odor is the chest tightness.

Food, exercise, stress, all these can influence your smell as I'm sure you know. Perhaps, and this is just a long shot perhaps, the stress your body was experiencing due to your chest tightness was a cause.

Sucks to be poor and without insurance, but I truly think if you take anything away from this it would be to get your heart checked out... by a doctor.
posted by edgeways at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2011

sex can do this
posted by Blasdelb at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2011

Have you been eating fewer carbohydrates than usual? Body odor can be one of the symptoms of ketosis, and it often gets worse with hard exercise as the body uses more non-carb fuel. I'd take a look at your diet and make sure that you're eating properly to support the work you're doing.
posted by decathecting at 8:19 AM on May 4, 2011

My guess would be food, stress, clothes, or a change in your hygiene routine:
* A meal heavy on the onions or garlic can certainly influence the smell of your sweat in an unpleasant manner.
* Stress sweat tends to develop a lot more funk than exercise sweat - did you get worked up worrying about this cardiac event, or have other issues that were emotionally stressful?
* Synthetic fabrics that many people wear for working out can hold on to sweat and bacteria and transfer their awful smell onto your skin.
* And finally, with this new workout regimen, is it possible that you forgot to put on your usual deodorant/antiperspirant, perhaps because you were showering away from home or outside your usual routine?

I've never heard of a cardiac event triggering body odor, although that doesn't mean it couldn't happen I guess. I would be highly doubtful that you could have "released a arterial blockage of fatty deposit and been exuding it." Your coronary arteries are not even the diameter of a pencil (more like 1/4 of that, tops), so the amount of material it takes to block them is not significant on the scale of your entire body. There is also no physiological reason that some kind of material from your blood vessels would be suddenly exuded from your skin.
posted by vytae at 8:20 AM on May 4, 2011

Well, that's weird. I'm 47 this happened to me for the first time in my life last Friday night. I was reaching up to scratch my scalp in my sleep and caught a whiff of my pit that woke me right up like ammonia salts would bring a boxer around in the movies. I have no idea why it stank so bad but I think I'm in pretty decent health, otherwise.

As far as the lingering chest tightness goes, I've experienced it after catching my self slipping ice or after some other kind of muscle pull that I didn't really notice at the time. Is it possible that you're not used to hefting yourself up from the edge of the pool?
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:03 AM on May 4, 2011

Perhaps a small boil or cyst that became overfull as a result of sweating during the exercise and popped or drained during the night? Infectious boils, sebaceous cysts, pilonidal cysts (etc etc) can pop up at the base of a hair follicle in your armpit, aren't necessarily large or painful, can be exacerbated by sweating or skin on skin rubbing, and sometimes stink like dead cheese (or worse) when they release their particular type of ooze. Get your girlfriend to inspect your pits closely for redness, inflammation, or a small hole that might have been the source of a leak.
posted by Ahab at 9:13 AM on May 4, 2011

Ketosis or simple dehydration could do this. As others asked, what were you eating and drinking?
posted by flarb at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2011

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