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Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders
Smelling Something Burning
Am strongly smelling something burning now and then...where there is nothing. What is causing this?
What you describe is referred to as a phantosmia, i.e. a disorderd smell perception when there is no external stimulus. Most often we see this when someone has lost some of their sense of smell, particularly after a viral infection. Therefore, it would be helpful to know if you have noticed a diminution in your sense of smell.
Alternatively, it is sometimes possible to have a bad odor in the nose related to an underlying sinus infection. In other words, the infection can cause a bad odor, although this is not typically described as a burnt smell.
I would suggest that if this bad smell persists, you should consider having a more formal medical evaluation, and this would include an objective measurement of olfactory sensitivity.
Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati