NHS website

Smelling things that aren't there (phantosmia)

NHS Choices information on phantosmia - the medical term for an imaginary odour or phantom smell - with links to other useful resources.

12 October 2018


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:

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.

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.