7 Possible causes of a bad smell in your nose: Staying hydrated and following a balanced diet may help prevent the condition
03/05/2020 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

Smelling a foul odor coming from somewhere is normal and is usually not a cause for concern. However, if the bad stench seems to come directly from the inside of your nostrils, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition.

What's up with your nose?

Various health conditions – most of them being sinus-related – can trigger a foul odor to emanate from the inside of your nose. Fortunately, these smells are only temporary and many of the conditions that cause it are usually not life-threatening. However, if the smell persists, it can still negatively impact a person's quality of life and may require medical attention. So, when your nose starts to smell a little funky, consult your physician to examine your sinuses to find clues to catch the culprit behind the bad smells. Below you can find a list of the most likely suspects.


As one of the more peculiar suspects, phantosmia refers to a condition that causes you to smell things that aren't actually there. When something like this happens, it is referred to as an olfactory illusion. These odors can range from the smell of burning rubber to even something spoiled or rotten.

Phantosmia often develops after a respiratory infection or head injury. However, the condition only affects about 10 to 20 percent of people with smelling disorders.


Products containing tobacco have chemicals that stain and weaken both the teeth and gums, leading to an increased risk of developing tooth and gum disease. Smoking can also give your breath an unpleasant smell and reduce your ability to taste and smell food properly. This can make you smell things you might think are foul but, in fact, they aren't.


Sinus infections

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can be caused by a bacteria or virus and has the potential to fill your nose with a foul-smelling odor. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sinus infections affect at least 31 million people in the US. Symptoms include sinus inflammation and nasal congestion, which can affect your sense of smell.

There are two types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. The former typically lasts for about three to eight weeks, while the latter can last for much longer. (Related: Are you sad about your nose? Study finds people with chronic sinusitis are at increased risk for depression and anxiety.)

Dry mouth

Also known as xerostomia, this condition develops when there is reduced or absent saliva flow, leading to swollen nasal passages and the feeling of being constantly parched. Because saliva removes unwanted microbes in the mouth, a lack thereof can result in bad breath and tooth decay, contributing to the foul odor in your nose.

Certain foods and drinks

The ability to enjoy the taste and smell of food and drink depends on molecules traveling to the sinuses through the passageway connected to the nose located near the roof of the mouth. All types of food and drink are full of molecules that stimulate the sense of smell, and they release these molecules when the body breaks them down. However, certain foods like onions and coffee can linger in the mouth, triggering unpleasant smells in the nose.

Poor oral hygiene

Cavities, usually caused by tooth decay or gingivitis, can trap bacteria that release unpleasant gasses when they break down. This leads to foul-smelling odors that travel to the sinuses and cause the nasty smell in your nose. Poor oral hygiene also leads to food particles getting stuck in your mouth. These particles eventually decay, which increases the risk of developing a nasty smell.

Digestive problems

Some digestive problems, like acid reflux, are known to cause both bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth. Also, while rare, this foul smell can be linked to more serious health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease.

Preventive measures

Depending on the culprit behind the bad smell emanating from inside your nose, you can make certain lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce your risk for developing this condition, such as:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating foods rich in fiber
  • Having proper dental hygiene, including regular dental checkups and treatments for mouth infections
  • Quit smoking

Thankfully, many of the above-mentioned conditions are easily treatable, so your experience with your smelly nose will most likely be a short-term event. Learn more about keeping your sinuses clear and healthy at Health.news.

Sources include:






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