Dr. Dean

Can A Smell Get Stuck In Your Nose?

Posting Date: 02/12/2001

Janet: Can a smell get stuck in your nose? I've been smelling a musty, moldy smell for about two months now. Unfortunately, my Ear, Nose and Throat appointment is not for two months.

Dr. Dean: A smell actually is aerosolization or vaporization; it?s molecules floating around in the air, mostly, though water vapor can carry smells. By the way, there are no germs in the smell. People think when they smell something bad they can get sick from it?and it floats up into your nose and embeds itself in the mucus of your nose. But you can't get sick from a smell alone.

Your nose is one of the most amazing organs there is. It is quite extraordinary in the variety of smells that it can tell. In general, you can get used to a smell, but a smell will not get stuck in your nose because the mucus in the nose will wash the molecules of the smell away.

So if you are smelling something and it continues to smell, it could mean you have one of several diseases or nasal problems. There will be an explanation, but it ranges from hallucinated smells to people who have disease in their sinuses and noses. Sometimes it's a chemical reaction that happens in your dental work. And sometimes it is something that happens in women during menopause, when their hormones change and maybe mucus dries out.

Sometimes we don't get to the bottom of a smell stuck in a person?s nose, but we do know that it seems to be something combined with taste. There is a lot of mystery, but most of the time when people go to the doctor for smell and taste disorders they do not get the right stuff. It's just something that American physicians are horribly trained at. And even Ear, Nose and Throat doctors and dentists don't pay as much attention as they could.

There are a few major centers that specialize in this and give you real tests for this. When these specialists get a smell problem, what do they do? They have these scratch and sniff tests that can actually quantify your ability to smell.