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What’s Causing Bad Smell In My Nose And How To Get Rid Of It?

There are times when bad smells emanate from your nose. If you are experiencing this condition then you are in the right place. Read further to know what’s causing a bad smell in my nose and how to get rid of it?

A lot of health conditions, most of which are linked with your sinuses, can trigger a rotten smell in the nose. However, most of these foul smells are temporary and not any sign of a serious or life-threatening condition. They might be indications that polyps or mucus are blocking your airways.

You must understand this that if a bad smell is filling your nose, then you must look inward. To do this, you should take the help of your doctor who would examine your sinuses and throat to find out any clues for the unpleasant or bad smell in your nose.

What’s Causing Bad Smell In My Nose?

What’s Causing Bad Smell In My Nose And How To Get Rid Of It?

  1. Sinus Infection:

    Sinusitis, or the sinus infection, affects around 31 million people in the US.(1) Sinusitis is a condition that causes symptoms like inflammation of the sinus and nasal congestion, which can interfere with an individual’s sense of smell.

    Sinusitis comes in a few varieties, and all of them can fill your nose with an icky smell. Sinus infections or sinusitis is commonly caused by bacteria or virus. Even a fungus can result in sinus infections, and the severity of this fungal infection can range from mild to very severe. Compared to viruses or bacteria, fungi are more difficult for the body to fight.

    Fungal infections can impair your immune function. These infections happen more commonly in people who are already immunocompromised or who have a disease affecting their immune function.

    You should know the cause of your sinus infection to plan for the treatment. Short-term sinusitis is known as acute sinusitis and lasts 7 to 10 days. However, you might also have chronic sinus infection or chronic sinusitis that lasts for at least 12 weeks.

    You might experience bad smells in the nose, suffer from a headache, facial pressure, fatigue and postnasal drip.

    Getting Rid Of Sinusitis That Might Cause Bad Smell In My Nose:

    Treating sinus infections or getting rid of sinusitis depends on whether they are bacterial or viral. You need antibiotics to cure a bacterial sinus infection. There are antiviral medications, but they are not prescribed always. In several cases, viral sinusitis runs a similar course with or without medicines. Rest and proper hydration are recommended to cure any infection.

  2. Nasal Polyps:

    Nasal polyps are soft noncancerous growths forming on the wall of your nasal cavity or sinuses. These are formed due to chronic inflammation. You are at a higher risk of developing nasal polyps if you have allergies, asthma, or frequent sinusitis.

    Symptoms of nasal polyps are, a rotten smell in the nose and a dramatically decreased sense of smell as well as taste. The bad smell that is caused due to nasal polyps might be because of the fluid buildup inside the polyps.

    Nasal polyps tend to be extremely small, so you might not even know that you have them. Small nasal polyps might not affect your breathing. However, larger polyps might be serious or when you have many small polyps, they might block your nasal passages and affect your sense of smell, your ability to breathe via the nose, and also your voice.

    You might experience symptoms of runny nose, stuffy nose, postnasal drip, headache, facial pain, pain in upper teeth, and snoring if you have nasal polyps.

    Getting Rid Of Bad Smell In My Nose Due To Nasal Polyps:

    To get rid of bad smell in the nose due to nasal polyps effectively you should take prescription corticosteroids, which are medicines that can shrink polyps and can reduce inflammation. In general, nasal corticosteroid sprays, like Fluticasone or Flonase and Mometasone or Nasonex are tried first. If they do not work, you might be prescribed with oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone by your doctor. However, these medications might have serious side effects.

    In severe cases, endoscopic surgery might be required. In this surgery, your doctor guides a thin and flexible scope or the endoscope with a tiny lens at one end via your nasal cavity and sinuses. The endoscope might also remove polyps and any other obstructions that might be impeding airflow.

  3. Postnasal Drip:

    Smelly mucus in our nose, particularly when it thickens and seems to drip incessantly down the back of our throat, you can know that it is a sign of postnasal drip. Usually, mucus helps in keeping our nasal membranes healthy, fight infection, humidifying the air that we inhale, and keeping foreign particles out of our airways. Mucus mixes with saliva and is swallowed without us being aware of it.

    However, flu, cold, allergy, or sinus infection could cause the mucus to thicken, thus making it harder for it to normally drain. Postnasal drip might start mildly, with no bad smell in the nose or impact on your breathing. But, you should see your doctor if the smell worsens and you begin to wheeze. You should seek medical attention if you are suffering from this condition for more than 10 days.

    Apart from this, if you see blood in your mucus, you should consult with your doctor immediately as this might be a sign of an infection growing or a scratch inside your nose. So, it is better to find out the cause sooner, before it gets more serious. Make it a note that in certain cases, poorly draining mucus can build up in your middle ear, resulting in earache and infection of the ear.

    Getting Rid Of Bad Smell In Nose Due To Postnasal Drip:

    Drinking lots of fluids and saline nasal spray could be useful to get rid of bad smell in the nose due to postnasal drip. You might also get benefit from sleeping with your head elevated slightly and using a vaporizer or humidifier to moisten the nasal cavity.

    If these remedies do not work, your doctor might recommend you taking antihistamines (if the cause is an allergy) or a cortisone steroid nasal spray for relieving inflammation. However, if there is a bacterial infection that is causing postnasal drip, you will require a course of antibiotics.

  4. Tonsil Stones:

    Our tonsils include cervices and folds that can trap mucus, saliva, dead cells, and food particles. At times, the debris can harden into tiny objects known as tonsil stones.

    Tonsil stones can cause bad smells in the nose. Bacteria feed on tonsil stones and generates a bad smell in the nose and also a bad taste in the mouth. Usually, you are at risk of having tonsil stones if you have poor oral hygiene or if you have unusually large tonsils.

    Getting Rid Of Bad Smell In Nose Due To Tonsil Stones:

    You should practice good oral hygiene and remain hydrated. This would help you reduce the risk of bacterial buildup. Sometimes gargling can dislodge tonsil stones. Apart from this, even vigorous coughing can benefit too.

    In severe cases, lasers or radio waves could be used for treating the condition. When the condition is treated you can also get rid of the bad smell in your nose that might be caused due to tonsil stones.

  5. Tooth Decay:

    Tooth decay is a condition that can cause bad smell in the nose. When bacteria gets collected on a tooth, they can eat away at the surface. This is known as tooth decay. The bacteria buildup can result in bad smell coming through the nose and bad breath.

    Getting Rid Of Bad Smell In Nose Due To Tooth Decay:

    To get rid of a bad smell in your nose caused due to tooth decay, you should treat the condition first. You must maintain good oral hygiene, and talk to your dentist to address your dental condition as soon as possible.

  6. Phantosmia:

    Phantosmia is a condition that is a hallucination of our olfactory system. Here, the patient smells odors that are actually not there, but they think they are in the nose or somewhere around them.

    This condition can develop after a head injury or respiratory infection. Conditions, such as brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease, or inflamed sinuses might even trigger phantom smells in the nose.

    Getting Rid Of Bad Smell In Nose Caused By Phantosmia:

    In some people, Phantosmia resolves on its own. However, for others, it is essential for treating the underlying cause of phantosmia and that would also help you get rid of bad smell in nose

  7. Chronic Kidney Disease:

    Chronic kidney disease or CKD is a progressive loss of the functioning of your kidney. Our kidneys serve a lot of purposes, which includes the filtering out of waste products from our blood for removal from the body in urine. Waste materials might build up in the body if our kidneys are not functioning properly.

    Those waste materials produce an ammonia-like smell that could be noticed in the back of your nose. You might even have an ammonia-like or metallic taste in the mouth. This happens only after your chronic kidney disease advances to stage 4 or stage 5.

    Some other symptoms that one might experience at this stage of CKD include kidney pain, fatigue, changes in the color of urine.

    Certain Drinks, Foods, and Medications:

    Some foods and drinks are full of microscopic molecules that stimulate your sense of smell. All foods release certain smells as our body breaks them down and digest them. But, some foods and drinks, and also some medications, might linger in our mouth or trigger an unpleasant smell in our nose.(2)

    Onions and garlic, spicy foods, coffee, nitrates and nitrites, phenothiazines, and amphetamines are some of the foods, drinks, and medications that might cause bad smells in your nose,

One Common Way To Get Rid Of Bad Smell In Nose:

You can try a homemade saltwater rinse that can temporarily help you in reducing the intensity of a bad smell in your nose.

For making this saltwater rinse at home, you should boil 460 ml of water and then let it cool down. You should now mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the water when it is still warm. Wash your hands properly with soap and water. Lean over the sink and sniff some of the mixtures of the water into one nostril and then let it run out of your nose. You can keep your nostril closed with one finger while you are sniffing. Repeat this for a few times.

Final Words:

If you have a bad smell in the nose for more than one week and there is no external source for it, you should see a doctor. Your doctor would try to find out the underlying cause that might be resulting in bad smell in your nose and treat you accordingly.

Be known that in most cases, this could be treated effectively, and it is always better to get yourself diagnosed sooner.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 1, 2022

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