After reading through all the posts listed here, it appears that there are several possibilities that may cause this condition.
Through the process of elimination I determined that my phantom smell was both physiological and environmental. Please read on…
First off, I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional. My comments are solely based on my own observations and experiences. There, my disclaimer is stated.
Recently, I had a sinus infection which cleared up on its own after a few weeks. While I believe in pharmacology, I’m not a huge fan of using antibiotics every time I get the sniffles. So I let nature run her course this time. Anyway, I had all the classic symptoms of a sinus infection: pressure behind my eyes, popping ears, headaches, mucus discharge from my nose…blah, blah, blah- I had it all.
During the second or third week the discharge changed dramatically in appearance. Initially it was clear and watery, now it was (pardon the descriptive terms) like custard crème from a donut. The mucus was thick, yellow and constantly flowing despite persistent nose-blowing. In fact, I was blowing my nose so much I started to develop a jaw ache. Eventually my body fought off the infection and things returned to normal-well sort of.
That when I started experiencing the annoying smell of stale cigarettes.
While I’m convinced my experience is physiological in nature, it stands to reason that my symptoms may be influenced by other factors.
We are exposed to a veritable laundry list (no pun intended) of chemicals and chemical compounds everyday of our lives. Some are benign, some are irritants and some are toxic. Even minute amounts of a relatively inert chemical can wreak havoc on our bodies when it is combined with other chemicals or when our immune system has been compromised.
There have been a lot of suggestions from other posters to remove everything to fabric softeners to Balsam of Peru for your environment. While these are great suggestions, is it really possible to remove everything?
Understanding how they interact with our own metabolic processes is the key in correcting many of the ailments we experience.
These reactions may be the root-cause to more than just these phantom sensations. Remember, the sense of smell is a neurological process that takes a chemical agent and converts it into electrical energy. Therefore, anything that manipulates changes or modifies either the chemistry or the electricity could alter what we 'perceive'. The same goes with our other senses, but it seems the olfactory process may be the most sensitive to subtle variations in one or both of the processes.
The obvious culprits are those which are closest to us: food and food additives, soaps, lotions and creams, cosmetics, medications, cleaners, etc. But what about those items we are exposed to that do not come in direct contact with our bodies? For example, electronic components (e.g. computers, TVs, cell phones), carpets and rugs, mold and mildew, animals (dander), even other people. The list is endless and varied.
Back to the stale cigarettes…
I started to keep a journal of when I smelled this odor and when I didn’t. After a few days it became obvious where the source of my problem was; it was work, secifically, the computers I use at work. Even more amazing to me was the fact that the smell would disappear when I left the confines of the room only to reappear when I returned. Furthermore, I started to have a similar experience at home and guess when it occurred? Yes, when I used my home computer. Ironically, all the computers are Macs, which apparently are known for their ‘new Mac smells’. http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=962025&start=0&tstart=0
Moreover, I never experienced this phenomenon when using non-Mac computers, so I’m a bit suspicious of my Macs now.
Now, how can I do my job effectively and not subject my body to potentially harmful emissions from my computers?
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