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Smelling bad odours which don't exist is a serious sign you should visit the doctor immediately

Think of a life without being able to smell.

Anosmia (its medical name) may come with its perks, such as being oblivious to particularly rancid farts , or coming in handy on journeys when your face is in someone else's armpit, or when you have to change a nappy .

But also imagine not being to smell delicious food, or freshly cut grass? Our sense of smell can even save our life.

At the other end of the scale is phanstosmia, the medical term for when a person smells things which aren't present.


Also known as olfactory hallucinations, there's no saying definitively what a person with phantosmia may smell. It could be a harmless smell. Often it's unpleasant.

It can spoil the taste of any food or drink consumed and may be in one or both nostrils.

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Getty Smelling bottle of perfumed body oil
Often the odours are not pleasant and perfume-like

Sometimes the result of a head injury or symptomatic inflames sinuses, although most phantom smells go away in time, if it persists then it's advisable to consult your doctor.

Phantosmia may sound like it poses no real health risk, but it could in fact be a red flag for serious medical conditions.

According to the NHS and persistence of phantosmia can be a sign of Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, Parkinson's or a brain tumour.

As the NHS advise, it is likely the condition will go with time, but be vigilant and keep tabs on it.

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