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Why do I keep smelling smoke when there is no smoke around me?

If you keep smelling odours that aren’t really there, like smoke when nothing is burning, you may have a condition called phantosmia. It can be unpleasant and affect how things taste to you, but is not usually serious and may go away by itself in a few weeks or months.

Sometimes cleaning the inside of your nose with a salt water solution can help. You can make the salt water solution at home or buy sachets for making salt water solution from a pharmacy.

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What causes phantosmia?

Phantosmia is typically caused by a minor infection such as a cold, flu, or sinusitis. It can also be caused by nasal polyps (growths inside your nose), migraines, epilepsy, a head or facial injury, or mental health issues like depression.

Can pregnancy cause phantosmia?

A change in your sense of smell is common in early pregnancy. Your sense of smell may become more sensitive and things you once enjoyed may start to smell or taste unpleasant, but this is not the same as phantosmia.

Can phantosmia cause difficulty catching breath and burning eyes?

Phantosmia tends to only affect your sense of smell. Speak to your doctor if you are struggling to catch your breath and your eyes are burning as this could be a sign of another condition. If you are struggling to breathe, go to a hospital or see a doctor immediately.

Is phantosmia dangerous?

Phantosmia is usually due to a minor infection, and it may go away on its own within a few weeks or months. In some cases, phantosmia can be a sign of a more serious condition, so you should always see your doctor if you experience it.

How is phantosmia treated?

Phantosmia may go away on its own. Sometimes cleaning the inside of your nose can help. You can try rinsing your nose with a saltwater solution to temporarily get rid of the smell. If the strange smell doesn’t go away in a few weeks you should see your doctor. They may refer you to a specialist to investigate the cause.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.