ASK A MOM: Smelly boys, picky eaters, and vaccine anxiety

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Q: My 9-year-old son smells after soccer practice. Not sweaty kid smell—like, full-blown body odor. We make him shower every night, but is it too soon for deodorant? I don’t want to embarrass him.—Liz 

A: No. Not too soon. If he needs it, he needs it. If you had a daughter who got her period younger than other girls, you’d get her pads or tampons. Whether you wanted to or not. She needed them, so you probably wouldn’t question the purchase. Based on what you smell, he needs deodorant. Don’t look at it like an age-thing, look at it out of a necessity-thing.

Now, what kind of deodorant is safe and gentle for kids?, a respected website with research on various things for parents, has a good list.

Simple. Easy. Done. Don’t give it another thought.


Q: I have three boys, ages 9, 7, and 4. My oldest two are on the autism spectrum and are very visual about what they eat. They also smell everything I try to give them and usually say no to it. Any advice for me would be greatly appreciated.—Randi 

A: Randi, first of all, keep going. One in 54 children live with autism, and you have two of them on that spectrum. More power to you and for what it’s worth, you’re a heckofa parent for wanting advice and not feeling ashamed to ask.

Good news for you: there are lots of resources in the Charlotte-area. I took your question to Autism Speaks, and it turns out feeding issues are very common in children and adults with autism. Helping your child overcome feeding issues can be a long, slow journey, but, they said… well worth the reward of better health and food flexibility.

“Food sensitivities, sensory issues, gastrointestinal issues, and restricted or repetitive behaviors are just a few examples,” says Lauren Kidder, spokesperson for Autism Speaks locally. “We recommend talking with your child’s doctor first, but have many great nutrition-related resources on our website including a toolkit called “Guide to Exploring Feeding Behavior in Autism.”

In the toolkit, experts recommend minimizing distractions during mealtime, setting a feeding schedule, and presenting foods in small bites and in fun and familiar ways.

Lauren also says the Autism Speaks Response Team can be reached at 1-888-288-4762 (1-888-772-9050 En Espanol) or at


Q: Hi, Molly. I plan to vaccinate both my kids, but my 8-year-old is fighting us on this. Many of his friends aren’t getting vaccinated right away, so how do I explain why he has to get the shot when not every other kid in his class does?—Name withheld 

A: Really glad someone asked a vaccine question. Let’s start with the basics:

  • Kids do get COVID and can get it badly. Since August of 2020, more than 67,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 across the country.
  • Earlier this month, the FDA and CDC approved the Pfizer COVID vaccine shot for the 28-million school-aged children across America.
  • The dosage this age group receives is 1/3 the dose adults receive. It is in different colored packaging, with a smaller needle.
  • Pfizer’s study found the vaccine 91% effective in preventing COVID symptoms in kids.
  • Shots were shipped from Pfizer’s distribution site in Wisconsin.
  • They are now in all 50 states, including the Carolinas.
  • Locally, they’re being offered at Star Med, county health departments, pharmacies, pediatrician offices, and children’s hospitals.
  • Appointments are getting filled (at least in these first two weeks).

Those are all facts. But they don’t always address the feelings parents might have toward the vaccine. Like, even if you are an adamant supporter of getting it yourself, should you feel that same confidence in giving it to your child between the ages of 5 and 11?

Doctors say: YES.

Dr. Amina Ahmed, a pediatric infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Levine Children’s Hospital (Atrium Health), spoke with WBTV about conversations kids are having with parents about the vaccine.

“Kids are generally scared of shots,” she says. “But you know, it has been amazing how young children are totally aware of this pandemic. They’ve had to wear masks, and that has helped explain the situation worldwide. I think if you just keep the dialogue open with your young child on how this is impacting the rest of the world, and how vaccines are to protect not just your child but other people around them, that’s a good thing.”

She says you can also emphasize how getting the shot will allow them to participate in more activities. Even if every child in class isn’t getting one, your child is helping others by getting it. And, kids have been getting shots for a long time. Getting a vaccine is nothing new.

“Keep reminding them it’s not just for them, it’s for the greater good,” Dr. Ahmed says. “It’s for public health. This is so kids can be allowed to get back with their friends and do more social things.”

Doctors say your child can feel confident relaying all those things to friends at school, if needed.

With that said, we know many adults still have questions… and those questions are heard by kids in a household, and taken into school settings. There are, simply put, lots of opinions. I sit in a newsroom and have made a career out of being easily accessible. You can find me to ask questions through email, Facebook messaging, tweets, DMs on IG, and I even have a desk phone that rings with strangers on the other end wanting to share their thoughts. (On everything you can imagine. Maybe a highly entertaining new column could be called: “Calls From The Other Side.”) In hearing from these followers and viewers, one big hesitancy is a fear of side effects. Age 5 is very different than age 11 in both weight and body development. Could there be different side effects within that wide range?

Atrium Health says you should be reassured that side effects are mild in all kids ages 5 to 11. The biggest side effect reported in this group is a sore arm. (They say the primary side effect in ages 12 to 17 is a headache or feeling tired.)

“But we also want to remind you that any side effect from getting the vaccine will be minimal, compared to effects of actually getting sick with COVID,” they say.

A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows about a quarter of parents will vaccinate their child, and 30% will “definitely not.” When WBTV took those statistics to Dr. Amina Ahmed, she said the one thing parents should know is that it all comes down to immunity.

What does that mean?

She says if your child gets sick with COVID, then gets better, they’ll have natural immunity. If they haven’t gotten COVID, and they decide to get the vaccine, they’ll have vaccine immunity. For children—and adults—health experts say vaccine immunity lasts longer. Dr. Ahmed says natural immunity lasts three to six months, while vaccine immunity lasts more than six months.

Translation: your kids’ bodies will be protected longer from COVID if they get the vaccine than if they’ve contracted and beaten COVID.

It’s a lot. The more you dig in, the more rabbit holes you find. I plead/emphasize/warn: Do your own research if you want, but, please, check the sources. There is lots of solid information and credible experts out there… but also lots of “I heard it on Facebook” stories. You can—and should—be smart about your research.

One credible place to find information is here. WBTV has a place to find appointments for vaccines listed county-by-county.

Hope this helps. I love that we can talk about deodorant, autism, and vaccines all in one place. Send your questions along for December.

Until then, see you guys tonight at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.



MOLLY GRANTHAM is an anchor, author, and mom of three. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or catch her on WBTV News at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11 p.m.