Saturday, November 01, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Reta, Community Member, asks

Q: What can be the cause of a constantly smelling smoke when there is no one smoking or anything burnin

I have an almost constant sensation of smelling smoke.  I don't smoke and no one in my family smokes.  It is an "old" smell of smoke like burning trash.  Is this a symptom of something that is wrong or allergy I didn't know I had or what?  It sometimes will be accompanied by a mild headache.

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Answers (4)
JB, Editor
8/27/08 3:06pm

You're not alone Reta!


It's a strange sounding condition to be sure, but there are several other people on the site with the same problem!


Click here to read what they had to say about the phantom smell of smoke


This doesn't seem to be an allergy, though. It may be a condition called "phantosmia" or olfactory hallucinations. It could be a sign of brain damage, damage to your smell receptors, schizophrenia or Alzheimer's Disease. Or it might be a sign that a migraine is coming on. Sometimes people who have migraines experience strange sensory events -- like smells or bright flashes of light or spots -- before the migraine hits. Those sensory events are called the migraine's aura.


In any event, you should see your doctor to get a diagnosis!

cp younger, Community Member
8/28/08 9:41am

Yes in restaurants and other places.  we have a special nose. I don't have problems with old smell of burning trash or burning things.

Ron, Community Member
8/28/08 8:57pm

I have had this happen to me earlier this year. I was having a head cold when it came abut. It lasted a cople of days then went away. It was quite annoying

RC, Community Member
5/20/11 11:17pm

Best I've been able to determine, it *might* be the result of a fungal/mold infection of the sinuses. At least that's what my ENT specialist thinks. Three treatments seem current as of now:


1. Surgery; endoscopic - in-office procedure Some sources suggest that it may not permanently cure the conditon


2. Antifungal oral meds; requires strong doses that might impact the liver


3. Antifungal inhalants; again requires strong doses with systemic impact.


Alternatively; Wait it out. Sometimes the fungal infection "encapsulates" and while it doesn't go away, you don't continue to get the phantom smell/dysosmia. Might explain why some people have it come and go.

RC, Community Member
5/20/11 11:29pm

I should add that there are several other potential causes not involving mold.  Serious causes would include brain tumor, trama to the brain and several mental disorders.  First/best would be to eliminate those potential causes FIRST.


Bottom line; it doesn't look like current medical science is settled on a cause and/or treatment.

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By Reta, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/03/13, First Published: 08/26/08