Smelling things that aren't there (phantosmia)Overview
Smelling things that aren't there is called phantosmia. It can be unpleasant and affect how things taste. But it isn't usually serious and may go away by itself in a few weeks or months.
Causes of phantosmia
Phantosmia is usually caused by an infection such as:
Less common causes include:
- growths in your nose (nasal polyps)
- mental health problems like depression
- a head injury
Cleaning inside your nose can help
Rinsing the inside of your nose with a salt water solution may help temporarily stop the strange smell.
You can make a salt water solution at home.
How to clean your nose with a salt water solution
Some pharmacies sell sachets you can use to make a salt water solution and devices to help you rinse your nose.
See a GP if the strange smell doesn't go away in a few weeks
Your GP may refer you to a hospital specialist for tests to find out the cause.
Treatment for phantosmia depends on the cause
Treating the cause of your phantosmia may help get rid of it.
Sometimes it might go away on its own, but it can be permanent.
Page last reviewed: 31/08/2017
Next review due: 31/08/2020