What is Phantosmia?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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Phantosmia is a medical condition that is also referred to as olfactory hallucinations or phantom smell. People affected by phantosmia typically believe that they smell scents, such as smoke, natural gas, dirt, or even flowers, when no such smell is actually present. It is sometimes linked to other medical illnesses, such as seizures, tumors in the brain, or Parkinson’s disease. Treatments are available for this non-life threatening condition, but in most cases, the phantom smell disappears on its own over time.

The main concern with someone experiencing this condition is not the disease itself, but the underlying illness that may be causing the condition. Since people affected by this issue are often diagnosed with some form of ailment affecting the brain, such as tumors, seizures, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, people may best consult a doctor when the symptoms of phantosmia are first noticed. In the alternative, some individuals experience the condition and have no sign of a serious medical illness.

There is one main symptom for phantosmia: a perceived smell that does not really exist. As a result, most people discover they have the disease through communication with others. For example, some affected individuals may ask several different people at different times and places whether they smell a particular odor. If everyone responds that the particular smell is not present, it may be the most evident sign that the condition is present.


For some individuals, phantosmia affects both nostrils, while for others it affects only one nostril. At this time, researchers have figured out ways to numb the area of the nose responsible for smell. As a result, the phantom smell can be temporarily blocked. This procedure is typically done when only one nostril is affected.

A surgeon also may permanently disconnect the sensory parts of the nose, if the condition is extremely bothersome. The result is that smell of any kind will no longer be possible through that nostril. Surgeons will typically not perform this form of surgery on both nostrils since it will permanently end all sense of smell.

There are other treatments that are available as well. For example, nose drops made of saline solution are sometimes prescribed. In addition, sedatives and antidepressants may be recommended. Since there are side effects to some of these medications, it is important to address all concerns with a physician. In addition, an affected individual should weigh the annoyance of the phantom smell against the cost and potentially adverse effects associated with treatment.


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Post 10

What can I take in pill form that is all natural for this?

Post 9

My symptoms were just like everyone else's. I smelled smoke where there wasn't any and fear it could be from something much worse -- like a brain tumor. After three months of smelling smoke with bouts lasting between 1 min to several hours, I first prayed to God and our lord for an intervention. I also started taking garlic pills with allicin and other vitamins that are chelated, ate blueberries, stopped chewing gum and ate a lot of salads with kale. My doctor scheduled me for an MRI (better than the radiation CT scan) but before my appointment, my symptoms went away. When I then got the MRI the results came back negative. Thank God! Beyond what I believe was a religious experience for me, I think it's also likely you may be experiencing an infection of the olfactory nerves. Consider the garlic and get yourself checked out, but I think and you'll be OK.

Post 8

What good would an operation to disable your sense of smell from your nose do, if the smells are imaginary?

Post 7

I smell burnt wires a lot and am asking my family if they smell it, but they don't. I smell it at home, work and in the car. I was told to see a neurologist.

Post 6

See an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor for smell disorders.

Post 5

Try the Neti pot. I have chronic sinusitis and sometimes smell smoke. the Neti pot takes it away, just like the post above where the same thing is done in the shower. The internet warns against using well water because you could be introducing bacteria that way.

Post 4

I have this happen every spring and it is horrible! I smell burnt coffee or cigarette smoke. Last year I started rinsing my nose in the shower, letting the water run down my nose and out my mouth. After doing this for a couple of days the smells disappear. I don't know if this will help you, but it has helped me so much. I used to go crazy for weeks at a time, but now I can get rid of it fast.

Post 3

I have recently been smelling smoke. No one in the household smokes, and yet I can smell it. Do I see my GP or is there a specific doctor I have to see about it?

Post 2

If one gets the floral smells, what kind of doctor do you see?

Post 1

What would be the cause when it happened to me once? One night back in 2009, when I was sitting reading on the couch in my apartment (in which there was nothing fragrant at the time and it was late) I suddenly smelled a sweet somewhat floral whiff that just arose in my nostrils without wafting in from anywhere. There was no traceable locality of origin or source and after a few seconds it disappeared as quickly! This occurred before the ache in the rear of my head began and it has never happened since. If that kind of experience is the recurrent symptom of a disease, why has it not been repeating?

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