Why does my son smell like syrup?

Q: My 3-year-old son sometimes has a syrup smell on his body. I have noticed that it has been off and on since birth. I'm only worried about it now because I was Googling the information and wondering if any other children had the same symptoms. Should I take him to his pediatrician and ask about it?

A: There is a medical condition where children develop a maple syrup odor to their urine. Children with this rare disorder usually have many other symptoms in early infancy like vomiting, lethargy, low muscle tone, and seizures so it is unlikely that a healthy three year old would have this disorder. Many states screen all newborns for this disorder. Sometimes people with diabetes develop an odor to their breath when their sugar level is out of control. Again, this would be unusual in a child without other symptoms such as increased urine output, increased desire to drink, weight loss, and abnormal breathing.

Most likely there is nothing concerning about the odor but anytime you have concerns about your child, especially if they are persistent over time, it is best to have your child evaluated by their doctor. At the visit be honest about what your concerns are and what you have read on the internet or heard from friends. The more your physician understands about your worries the better they can help evaluate your child and reassure you as to whether or not any further testing needs to be done.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Answered by Dr. Carrie M. Brown

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