The Truth About That Bad Smell In Your Nose
Published Dec 7, 2020
Rotten foods, bad gas, and body odor – these are just some of the bad smells you might encounter in a day. It’s far from the most unusual thing to smell something off in your environment. However, it’s an entirely different story when the foul odor comes from within your own nose.
What is that bad smell in my nose?
When something is wrong with our body, we can usually sense it in one way or another. This bad smell is a telltale sign of an underlying infection or condition. But keep your worrying to a minimum; the good news is that most of these infections are quite minor and temporary, not to mention very treatable. Aside from affecting your quality of life somewhat, the consequences are relatively manageable. Here’s what you should know about the bad smell in your nose.
Common causes for bad smell in the nose and their treatment
Sinusitis (Acute or Chronic)
Sinusitis, or the inflammation of the sinuses, is one of the most widespread infections in the world, afflicting over 31 million people in the United States alone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these are some of the symptoms that you should watch out for:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Facial pressure
- Mucus dripping down the throat (post-nasal drip)
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Acute sinusitis may last around 3-8 weeks, while its counterpart, chronic sinusitis, may stick around for longer than that. In treating sinusitis, you must correctly identify its underlying cause. If allergies are what’s leading to it, nasal decongestants may not suffice. Here are some of the common medications and treatment for different causes of sinusitis:
- Antibiotics. If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection leads to your condition, they may put you on antibiotics. Usually, this regimen will last for about 10-14 days. Antibiotics will only be effective against bacterial infections, so it will not help much if the underlying cause is viral.
- Decongestants. These help reduce the amount of mucus buildup within the sinuses. They can come in different forms, such as sprays and pills. However, you shouldn’t be too reliant on these or take them for more than three days. Doing so could even be counterintuitive, making you feel more congested.
- Antihistamines. Many cases of sinusitis are due to allergies. If you have never been diagnosed with allergies before, you should get checked. On the other hand, if you have a history of allergies, a course of antihistamines and avoiding likely triggers will greatly help.
- Steroids. Nasal steroids help in reducing the inflammation within your nasal passages. These tend to come in the form of nasal sprays, but you can take them orally for more severe cases.
Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths or tumors that grow from the lining of the nose or sinuses. They can occur in either nostril and can obstruct airflow. Nasal polyps are relatively common, afflicting up to 40% of the population. They also happen more frequently in people with asthma, aspirin sensitivity, chronic sinus infections, cystic fibrosis, and allergic rhinitis.
Aside from a reduced sense of smell, these growths can also cause nasty or foul odors within one’s nose. Other symptoms you might expect to have include:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Runny nose
- Facial sinus fullness (not painful but stuffy)
- Post-nasal drip
- Mouth breathing (due to difficulty of breathing through the nose)
After diagnosis, most accurately through a nasal endoscopy, you can treat the condition depending on its severity. Here are a few treatment options to deal with nasal polyps:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Antibiotics to reduce polyps size
- Nasal irrigation
- Allergen immunotherapy
Phantosmia is the general term to describe the weird phenomenon when somebody smells something that isn’t there. This occurs when a condition messes with a person’s sense of smell.
People with phantosmia can smell different things, and these are the most common ones:
- iron or metallic
- strong chemical-like smells
Phantosmia occurs in 10-20% of people with a wide variety of sinus conditions, such as colds, infections, allergic rhinitis, and polyps. Other less likely causes include:
- migraine headaches
- head injury or stroke
- conditions that can cause hallucinations (schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease)
The best way to treat phantosmia is to treat what’s causing it. So, once that’s diagnosed, treatment should be straightforward.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Not taking care of your dental hygiene can also lead to many problems, including a bad smell in the nose. When you don’t brush your teeth, a film of plaque forms around your teeth. This plaque is the bacteria that causes tooth decay. When your teeth decay, cavities can form and trap particles or bacteria, producing sulfur gases that cause a foul odor. These gases can travel to the back of the throat and enter the channel that connects to your nasal passages, allowing you to catch a whiff of this awful scent.
Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and flossing daily are the best ways of preventing tooth decay. We recommend getting a checkup at the dentist. If he diagnoses you with a cavity or several cavities as well as gum disease, you should get treatment right away.
Dry mouth, or its technical term “xerostomia,” happens when there’s inadequate saliva within one’s mouth. The leading indicators of this condition include always being thirsty and swollen nasal passages. Saliva is integral in removing unwanted microbes from the mouth and neutralizing acids. This can lead to developing bad breath and an offputting taste in your mouth, not to mention increasing tooth decay risk.
Treatment for dry mouth is pretty straightforward: stay hydrated. Drinking about 2 liters of water a day should keep you adequately hydrated. Stay away from things that could dehydrate you, like diuretics (caffeine and alcohol) and certain medications.
Smoking and Tobacco products
Cigarettes and other tobacco products come with warnings, and rightly so. Tobacco products contain chemicals that can stain and potentially destroy the teeth and gums, leading to all sorts of unwanted conditions. Furthermore, tobacco smoke gives the breath an unpleasant scent that we call cigarette breath. Smoking can significantly reduce someone’s ability to smell and taste things, making them all the more prone to incorrectly identifying scents as being foul.
The easy way to treat the bad smell in the nose caused by smoking and tobacco products is simply to stop using them immediately. Besides bad breath and smelling foul odors, smoking can lead to potentially life-threatening diseases in lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
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