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What Causes Bad Smell in the Nose?

Encountering unpleasant smells is a part of life. But some medical issues can cause lingering smell in the nose with no apparent source. While most are not serious, the sensation can be unpleasant and affect quality of life. Treatment in most cases can provide relief. Below are some of the most common causes of bad smell in the nose.


Sinusitis, more commonly known as a sinus infection, affects around 31 million people in the U.S. Symptoms include pain and pressure in sinus cavities, congestion, headache, bad breath and loss of smell.

As mucus drains from the sinuses into the nasal cavities and throat, you may experience a bad smell.

Acute sinusitis lasts from one to eight weeks, while chronic sinusitis is marked by symptoms that persist 12 weeks or more. Most clear up on their own, but a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. For people with chronic, recurring symptoms, surgery may be recommended.

Poor Dental Hygiene

Poor dental hygiene means more food particles become trapped in the teeth. As these foods decay, they cause bad taste and smell. Over time, plaque, or a thin film of bacteria, can accrue and cause tooth decay and enflame the tissues in the mouth.

Cavities, usually caused by tooth decay or gingivitis, can trap bacteria and release gasses such as sulfur as the teeth break down. These odors can travel through the sinuses and cause a bad smell in the nose.

Certain Substances

Certain foods, drinks and medications can also lead to bad smell.

Everything we eat or drink emits smells as they’re broken down during digestion. Certain foods, drinks and medications, however, may linger and cause unpleasant smell, including:

  1. Garlic

  2. Onions

  3. Coffee

  4. Spicy foods

  5. Nitrates/nitrites

  6. Amphetamines

  7. Phenothiazines

Tobacco Use

The chemicals in tobacco products stain and weaken teeth and gums, increasing risk of disease. In addition, tobacco itself also has an unpleasant odor.

In addition, smoking reduces the ability to taste and smell food properly for many people, which may cause someone to perceive odors as worse than they are.

The best way to resolve unpleasant smell in the nose is to treat the underlying condition. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Topeka ENT today.

Learn More About Nose Health



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