What’s That Nasty Smell in My Sinus Cavity? A Kentucky Doctor Explains.
I have a sinus infection. I feel fine, by the way. I am not congested. My head doesn't hurt. I don't have any drainage issues going on. I'm perfectly okay except for this REALLY gross smell all up in my nose and head. I feel like I can smell my brain.
You know exactly what smell I'm talking about, right? It's hard to explain the actual scent, but, if you've ever had a sinus infection, you know the aroma I am referring to.
There's no other scent to compare it to really. I mean, it's not like Bath & Body Works has rolled out a special three-wick Sinus Infection Candle for the holidays. But the smell is real. It's definitely there and undeniably gross.
Now, most people, because it's so disgusting, wouldn't think to explore this phenomenon. However, I am a curious person and I decided that I wanted to find out what exactly causes this smell. That's why I immediately reached out to my friend Dr. Andrea Johnston with Owensboro Pediatrics. Her response to me- "You are hilarious and disgusting."
Well, get ready to want to puke because the answer the foul stench that's plaguing my nasal cavity (and potentially yours) is simple and nasty. It's freaking mucus. And it's trapped. And it stinks. Like a dumpster in the summer.
Kaplan Sinus Relief says the odor is a common result of a bacterial sinus infection.
A bacterial sinus infection may be behind why the inside of your nose smells rotten, or why you might notice smells when blowing your nose. When healthy, your sinuses are naturally able to drain mucus (which has filtered germs and dirt from the air). During a sinus infection, however, your sinuses become swollen and potentially congested. This can trap mucus and all that it has filtered from the air, which can, in turn, lead to some rather unpleasant odors.
Doesn't that sound lovely? We ll, mine must be really trapped (like Catherine Martin in The Silence of the Lambs) and dirty and "germy" because it's the ONLY thing I can smell. And my nose is at running at all. If I blow my nose, nothing is getting dislodged. I am basically just blowing air out of my nostrils. I'm like one of those dragons in Game of Thrones just sitting around, huffing and puffing and waiting for someone to yell "DRACARYS!"
Now you may be asking, "What does it smell like?" Honestly, I can't pinpoint it exactly.
The ID Doc (Dr. Andrew Pugliese), in an article called "Why Do Sinus Infections Smell Bad?", shares some descriptions from former patients.
Descriptive terms that I’ve heard in the past include gym socks, locker rooms and foul smelling garbage. Other descriptive terms include rotten fruit or meat and sewage.
Okay, it's interesting that someone compared that sinus infection smell to gym socks. The way I would describe it is somewhat similar. I think it smells like sweaty tennis shoes, but sweaty tennis shoes that have been mixed with something similar to menthol. I know what you're thinking. EWWWWWWWWWW!!
And EWWWWWWWWWWW is right. Just ask Dr. Johnston, who confirmed to me that the rancid smell is caused by "a combination of viral and bacterial byproducts and changes to your taste buds that occur while you are trying to fight off illness."
For the record, she knows what she's talking about. Not only does she know because she went to medical school, she also knows because her nasal cavity currently smells like shoes in a middle school locker room too. Her words, "It's literally happening to me this week and I hate it. YUCK!"
And there you have it, my friends. A true, clinical diagnosis and description of the smell. Dr. Johnston nailed it in a way that everyone can understand. YUCK!