Respiratory Disorders Community
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Avatar universal

Phantom smell - Burning & Smoke

Hello, For a while i have been smelling a burning smell in my nose, kind of like smoke. It's not constant, somedays it's there and some it's not, i don't know what it is, i searched around and couldn't really find much, any info would be great.
185 Responses
111941 tn?1235819551
I know it's been awhile since your post, but if you're checking back I wondered if you ever figured out what it was?  I just started smelling it yesterday.  And it definately is a phantom smell.  For me it's not so much like smoke, but chemical burning or friction burn.  Like when the dentist grinds your teeth kind of... ??  Anyonelse???
581210 tn?1220838380
It's called Phantosmia, and can be from drugs, head injury, seizure, or tumor.  You should see your doctor, a neurologist if possible.
629848 tn?1222254930
Same problem of smelling smoke, like something is on fire in my home. I am in the process of finding out the problem and am investigating all possibilities I find.
Avatar universal
I have a denign petuitary tumor that we've been monitering for a number of years. Recently I've noticed phantom smells like burning tar, garbage, cow manure...nothing ever pleasant. I know its not really happening to anyone but me, still I always grab the nearest person and ask what ordor they smell. Just once I'd like someone else to share my experience. This weekend, while eating crab legs dipped in melted butter, I had to keep asking if the butter tasted rancid to anyone else. I have 2 drs. apt. set up...one for an MRI and one for the followup. Keep ya posted.
650386 tn?1224094738
My phantom odor smells like an ashtray.  I keep thinking maybe someone is putting their cigarettes out nearby and I'm just not seeing it - but it's happening both at work and at home.  Should I be worried?
652305 tn?1224200354
I have the "smoke" smells moreso some months than others. I have gone several months without smelling the "smoke" and some months it's as frequent as daily,  It is rather annoying if nothing else.  My family of course never smell a thing like smoke.  I imagine that this "tumor" mention could be a dangerous situation so should I worry more about this?  I am in the process of re-enlisting in the military and I don't think the powers that be would care for this illness.
Avatar universal
I have been suffering from this for about 2 years now.  I smell something burning in my home which smells more chemical than anything.  I live alone and am paranoid about it.  I'm always afraid my house is smoldering.  No one else can smell this.  Some times it is a daily thing which can last hours to days, and sometimes I go months without smelling it.  I have no idea what causes this, but would like an explanation or diagnosis.  It is very annoying and stressful.  
Avatar universal
Amazing. Never thought anyone else had this same thing occuring to them.
For me it started a year ago; All of a sudden. The "smoke" was more
chemical than anything. It even burned my throat. I could even taste it.
That went on for 6 weeks straight. Went away out of nowhere. Since then,
it comes back every so often, but not as intense as the first time.
Same horrid smell, with the same taste and burning of the throat.
I didn't read anybody else having a taste in their mouth from the "odor" and
I am a bit worried ...
I have the same thing.  I keep smelling burnt plastic.  Almost like the smell of brand new Chinese plastic stuff.  In fact I purchased a new powered speaker that smelled so strong of it that I had to return it.  Everyone smelled that.  Now I smell it daily.  Sometimes stronger than others.  I wonder if it's related to the cheap Chinese speaker that I returned 6 months ago.
I have the same thing.  I keep smelling burnt plastic.  Almost like the smell of brand new Chinese plastic stuff.  In fact I purchased a new powered speaker that smelled so strong of it that I had to return it.  Everyone smelled that.  Now I smell it daily.  Sometimes stronger than others.  I wonder if it's related to the cheap Chinese speaker that I returned 6 months ago.
Avatar universal
I have had this for years. I thought it is part of my mild Multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, but now that I have a lot of symptoms that could be a brain tumor they are trying to do a MRI. I have become Claustrophobic so there was no way I could take that plastic tube they put your head in now before going in the tunnel, not even on the open MRI machine. So now they are going to do a sleep study ( have all those symptoms to) to make sure it will be ok to put me to sleep for the MRI. God bless.
Avatar universal
I understand from my neurologist that phantom smoke smell can preceed a seizure event, even an "absent" seizure, meaning that you check out for a sec.  I do not have seizures.  A tumor is a possiblity but I don't have that either.  I have taken to using a Neti Pot to wash out my sinuses when this starts and it seems to help incredibly.  I have a low functioning immune system with possible porphyria (look this up and see if any of the other symptoms apply to you).  I think that the smoke smell serves as a warning that there is something going on in your body that you need to discover.  We have to be our own detectives and advocates.  Blessings to everyone here who is suffering.  Mine has been a ten year journey.  I pray yours isn't as long.
Avatar universal
I have been experiencing the same acrid smoke smell with the burned throat sensation off and on over a period of approximately a year. I see here that several people have mention that they have Dr. appointments set but no one has come back to report the results. Anyone have a successful out come?
Avatar universal
I have had this same phantom smell of burning cigarettes for several months.  My Neurologist thougth it could be a frontal lobe tumor or depression.  I put off an MRI because I have been under tremedous stress and depression was present.  I started on an anti-depressant, Lexapro and the smell went away.  I let my Drs know this but they still wanted to run the MRI...I had it yesterday.  Funny thing...my phantom smell came back yesterday evening so now I;m not sure it is entirely depression related but perhaps a combination of "stuff".  
Avatar universal
For years I have had this problem of phantom smell.  You know when you have a candle burning for awhile and then you blow it out - that smell has been driving me crazy.  I suffer from migraines - from time to time (however as I am going through menapause they are less frequent.  I have hypothyroidism aka (Hasimoto's Thyroiditis) since I was 33 (now 50).  About 12 years ago I started exeriencing this- it was so bad that I knocked on the doors of all the offices in the 4 story office building I worked in - asking people if they were burning candles.  I also do not have it all the time - but when I do get it, it stays for days / weeks sometimes and just drives me crazy.  So far I've read that this could be related to MS, depression, brain tumor, etc..

The most common denominator so far that matches any of my conditions I've found in all these forums that I've read is thyroid.  Could this be releated to thryroid medication - perhaps a side effect?

It would be good to know what is causing it - even better to know how to stop it.  Any suggestions.
Avatar universal
I just started smelling ths today and i twas right after I was baking panckakes for my baby sister and I was wondering what it was and my whole family can smell it so we are wondering what it is and it smells like burning plastic???...Does any one know why???????????
Avatar universal
If your whole family can smell it, something is burning! Electrical wires, floresent light bulb, clothes dryer, hair dryer etc. etc. etc.
Avatar universal
I too have a smell of burning smoke in my nose from time to time.  Sometimes I can go for months without experiencing it and then all of a sudden I smell it all the time.  I am on Abilify, Wellbutrin, and Lamictal -- all for bipolar disorder.  Could this have anything to do with it?  Do I need to worry about seizures?  This has been happening for about 5 years now and so far no seizure.  I didn't start having this until I started taking the drugs.  Could they have started a "short circuit" in my brain somehow?
Avatar universal
I started getting the same smell last week. never heard of phantom smells before but my fiance said his doctor told him it was due to a brain tumor so i'm booking in to see my doctor about it.
Avatar universal
I had this problem right after Thanksgiving, and vowed I would report back to posts like these if I found a cure.  Well, I went to an ENT before a neurologist - just somewhere to start.  Because I have Lupus, he knew what I was talking about because his mom and uncle have Lupus.  Phantosmia.  First he wanted to try steriods.  Prednisone to be exact.  A tapered dosage over like 10 days I think it was.  I AM CURED!   Maybe it was a coincidence.  I don't know, but here it is Jan 07, and I've had nothing since mid Dec.
Avatar universal
I might have something that can HELP!!

I suffered with the phantom cigarette smoke for 4 months before I found relief. My mom suggested a allergy and I was like no way, never had allergies before. Well after I thought about it I thought well it couldn't hurt to try an allergy drug, so I bought a neti-pot used it for a few days and then bought Alavert 24 hr. allergy tablets (they are orally disintegrating mint flavor). I used the neti-pot 3x's a day plus the Alavert. I woke up on the 6th day of treatment without the smell of cigarette smoke. Next day same thing...smoke free....then in the afternoon the smoke smell came back I was bummed, but 2 hours later gone and it has been 3 weeks and still breathing fresh air...no phantom cigarette smoke!!

I thought the allergy was a no go because I started the phantom smoke in November and it continued during the winter months where I thought pollen count was low...but maybe it was something else either way I am phantom smoke free.

I used Alavert because it is cheaper than another Over the Counter brand that doctors recommend, but Alavert has the same active ingredient with the same mg as the other brand but far less cheaper.

Just wanted to share my experience because I was so miserable that I was getting depressed...so if I can help just one person get rid of that phantom smoke then...WOOT WOOT!
Avatar universal
I never thought this was happening to so many people, I always thought I was being haunted.  I only smell it when I'm sleeping and the horrid smell wakes me up because I think the house is burning.  I also wake up sweaty and my jaw is sore... Does anybody know why???? Its driving me crazy, and it only occurs once in a while it happened to me last night again :(
Avatar universal
I smelled burning wood, but sometimes it smelled musty like some kind of mold (not mildew), and I noticed it more after it rained.   After a few months of this, I  finally typed "burning smell" in Google and sure was surprised to find this forum!  Several months ago, I was as surprised to find a forum where people were talking about gnats flying up their noses.  I think both problems are related and have to do with some kind of decay stuck in the sinuses.

As far as the burning smell, I have been able to make it go away by putting various home remedies in my nose and using a neti pot.  Now, sometimes I smell a sweet smell, like donuts, but I can make that go away, too, temporarily.  So far, all my remedies are temporary, but I am thinking that with diligence, I will finally get rid of the problem.  

I do the following routine with the nose drops at least once a day, and use the neti pot once a day.  My sinuses are clearing somewhat, but surgery is starting to sound good.  In the meantime, I will continue doing this routine:

Nose drops:
Fill a small dropper bottle (2 oz) with almond oil, then add 3 drops lavender, 2 drops peppermint, shake, then add about 1/8 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide (the kind you can buy anywhere).  The peroxide seems to be important, but just be careful how much you use because it does burn (fizz) for a few seconds when it gets to the infection!  (Everyone is probably different in the amount they can use; I tried mixing water and peroxide half and half and it was way too much for me!)  

To put it in your nose:  Lay on your back with your head just barely hanging over the side of the bed.  Shake the mixture, then add a few drops to one nostril, wait a few seconds for the burning to stop, then put a few drops in the other nostril.  Leave it in there for a few minutes, then I usually add more drops to each side.  You can experiment with how far you hang your head over the side of the bed to get it into other parts of your sinuses.  You can feel where the peroxide stops.  When I do it, I can feel the peroxide in my forehead on the right side, but it stops somewhere behind my eye on the left side.  After doing this repeatedly over several days, I can feel it go a little further into my left sinus.  When you sit up, of course you will have to blow your nose.

Wait a few hours before using the neti pot.  With the neti pot, it is important to put the right amount of plain (non-iodized) salt in the neti pot, about 1/8 teaspoon to a neti pot of water, mixed well.  Either too little or too much makes it burn.  Lately I have been adding a pinch of baking soda as it seems to be soothing.

Also, we have natural flora in our noses. Some posts recommend putting probiotics (flora) in the neti pot, but I am not sure if it helped the problem or made it worse.  I don't think I would try any probiotics with FOS in it, but I will probably try using probiotics again.

Avatar universal
i had this problem about 4 or 5 months ago for weeks. i smell burning/cigarette smoke. i can almost taste it and it makes my throat hurt and gives me horrible headaches.  i went to the doctor and had blood drawn. they tested my thyroid. i had an MRI and an EEG.  they didn't find anything wrong. all of a sudden the smell went away but it just came back two days ago. im not sure what else to do to get rid of it...
Avatar universal
I am pretty sure the burning smell is caused by candida or some other kind of fungus.  I am still working on getting rid of it permanently.  Today I tried a goldenseal mixture that I bought at the health food store with pretty good results.  It got rid of the smoky smell very quickly for a little while.   I am still doing the other as mentioned above, and I added the Flip-Turn Sinus Flush, but either I'm not doing it right or it just doesn't work so great for me.  I'll keep doing it for awhile though.  It could be that laying on your back does the same as far as getting a mixture in the sinuses in the forehead, but here is the Flip-Turn Sinus Flush link:  http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/2322/The-Sinus-Flush

Avatar universal
I have had this smell in my head for about 5 months now.  It's almost a cross between cigarette smoke and some kind of metallic or chemical smell.  I was wondering if anybody else with this sensation has amalgam fillings in their teeth.   I've been reading a lot of forums where people have described these same symptoms and have been given various reasons, such as being  on certain medications, sinus infections or signals of impending migraine.  I have ruled out all of those reasons for myself and by process of elimination, I've come up with the possibility of amalgam fillings. What do you think?
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