Smelling Cigarette Smoke (Phantosmia): What could it mean?

Posted by iceblue @iceblue, Dec 28, 2019

At some point in the past week or two I started smelling cigarette smoke where there definitely was none. Initially it was just a brief whiff while sitting in my easy chair and then it would be gone, but now I smell it everywhere. And it’s no longer just a brief whiff – it’s almost constant and to the point where it sometimes makes me feel nauseous.

I have recently increased the amount of Gabapentin I’m taking from 300 mg/day to 500 mg/day. Is it possible the increase in Gabapentin has anything to do with this?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Brain & Nervous System group.

Looks like I'm over a year late to this conversation, but anyway – I'm currently trying to figure out what's wrong with me

45 years old
On 200-500mg of gabapentin daily, for about 7 months, for nerve pain in my hands caused by some minor cervical impingements
Started Lisinopril 20mg nightly for borderline high blood pressure about 2 months ago

For the last 4 weeks I've had the worst cold-like symptoms I can recall – and 2 negative COVID tests – vaccinated since April.
Tightness in chest, difficulty getting deep breaths, exhaustion, coughing. (coughing is a side effect of Lisinopril)
Before this happened, I was able to run 3 miles every other day with light upper body exercise. This congestion has forced me to cut way back on exercise.

I smell dirt/dust everywhere! Nobody else in my household is having this problem.
I've always had a very strong sense for bad smells, and the Fall Season always brings out the worst in my sinus allergies, but this season has been especially bad, and meds for my cold and allergies would of course open up my nose.
The strong dirt smell is new. I have always been able to smell my own shoe'd feet, anything sweaty, cooked broccoli always reeks.

I have bouts of depression and the worst symptoms of my cold came on during a stressful time. My worst neuropathy came on during last years holiday stress. My mom has a history of thyroid issues and fibromyalgia.

Everyone had a stressful covid year. I've continued to work full time, plus manage 2 freelance projects, both of which I am frustrated with the results of. Full time work is low stress. Interactions with people have become vastly more draining.

I'm so tired of doctors appointments, and while the gabapentin has helped, it's such a low dose that it's hard for me to believe it could be causing side effects. Overall, talking to my multiple doctors hasn't yielded a great change in my results.

I did talk therapy from June 2019-Feb 2020, with couples talk therapy mixed into the middle. Lately I'm avoiding screen time and doing more reading. I'm quite happy to spend time alone, which is hard to do with a family, but I don't want to tear up relationships just so I can be alone.

TMI?

So I'm wondering what role Stress and Anxiety could be playing in all of this, including my neuropathy. Could this all be in my head? And if it's all in my head, how can I fix my head??

And how can I stop smelling dirt everywhere?

any responses much appreciated : )

REPLY
@scottula

Looks like I'm over a year late to this conversation, but anyway – I'm currently trying to figure out what's wrong with me

45 years old
On 200-500mg of gabapentin daily, for about 7 months, for nerve pain in my hands caused by some minor cervical impingements
Started Lisinopril 20mg nightly for borderline high blood pressure about 2 months ago

For the last 4 weeks I've had the worst cold-like symptoms I can recall – and 2 negative COVID tests – vaccinated since April.
Tightness in chest, difficulty getting deep breaths, exhaustion, coughing. (coughing is a side effect of Lisinopril)
Before this happened, I was able to run 3 miles every other day with light upper body exercise. This congestion has forced me to cut way back on exercise.

I smell dirt/dust everywhere! Nobody else in my household is having this problem.
I've always had a very strong sense for bad smells, and the Fall Season always brings out the worst in my sinus allergies, but this season has been especially bad, and meds for my cold and allergies would of course open up my nose.
The strong dirt smell is new. I have always been able to smell my own shoe'd feet, anything sweaty, cooked broccoli always reeks.

I have bouts of depression and the worst symptoms of my cold came on during a stressful time. My worst neuropathy came on during last years holiday stress. My mom has a history of thyroid issues and fibromyalgia.

Everyone had a stressful covid year. I've continued to work full time, plus manage 2 freelance projects, both of which I am frustrated with the results of. Full time work is low stress. Interactions with people have become vastly more draining.

I'm so tired of doctors appointments, and while the gabapentin has helped, it's such a low dose that it's hard for me to believe it could be causing side effects. Overall, talking to my multiple doctors hasn't yielded a great change in my results.

I did talk therapy from June 2019-Feb 2020, with couples talk therapy mixed into the middle. Lately I'm avoiding screen time and doing more reading. I'm quite happy to spend time alone, which is hard to do with a family, but I don't want to tear up relationships just so I can be alone.

TMI?

So I'm wondering what role Stress and Anxiety could be playing in all of this, including my neuropathy. Could this all be in my head? And if it's all in my head, how can I fix my head??

And how can I stop smelling dirt everywhere?

any responses much appreciated : )

Jump to this post

oh – and itchy skin, sensation of tiny bugs crawling on me. Often they are, small gnat-type things. And often I'm probably being neurotic about it

REPLY
@scottula

Looks like I'm over a year late to this conversation, but anyway – I'm currently trying to figure out what's wrong with me

45 years old
On 200-500mg of gabapentin daily, for about 7 months, for nerve pain in my hands caused by some minor cervical impingements
Started Lisinopril 20mg nightly for borderline high blood pressure about 2 months ago

For the last 4 weeks I've had the worst cold-like symptoms I can recall – and 2 negative COVID tests – vaccinated since April.
Tightness in chest, difficulty getting deep breaths, exhaustion, coughing. (coughing is a side effect of Lisinopril)
Before this happened, I was able to run 3 miles every other day with light upper body exercise. This congestion has forced me to cut way back on exercise.

I smell dirt/dust everywhere! Nobody else in my household is having this problem.
I've always had a very strong sense for bad smells, and the Fall Season always brings out the worst in my sinus allergies, but this season has been especially bad, and meds for my cold and allergies would of course open up my nose.
The strong dirt smell is new. I have always been able to smell my own shoe'd feet, anything sweaty, cooked broccoli always reeks.

I have bouts of depression and the worst symptoms of my cold came on during a stressful time. My worst neuropathy came on during last years holiday stress. My mom has a history of thyroid issues and fibromyalgia.

Everyone had a stressful covid year. I've continued to work full time, plus manage 2 freelance projects, both of which I am frustrated with the results of. Full time work is low stress. Interactions with people have become vastly more draining.

I'm so tired of doctors appointments, and while the gabapentin has helped, it's such a low dose that it's hard for me to believe it could be causing side effects. Overall, talking to my multiple doctors hasn't yielded a great change in my results.

I did talk therapy from June 2019-Feb 2020, with couples talk therapy mixed into the middle. Lately I'm avoiding screen time and doing more reading. I'm quite happy to spend time alone, which is hard to do with a family, but I don't want to tear up relationships just so I can be alone.

TMI?

So I'm wondering what role Stress and Anxiety could be playing in all of this, including my neuropathy. Could this all be in my head? And if it's all in my head, how can I fix my head??

And how can I stop smelling dirt everywhere?

any responses much appreciated : )

Jump to this post

Hello @scottula, Welcome to Connect. While we wait for other members to respond and share their experiences I did find some information supporting that stress and anxiety can play a part in parosmia.

— Feeling stressed makes the world smell worse: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/feeling-stressed-makes-the-world-smell-worse-8844178.html
— A shot of anxiety and the world stinks: How stress can rewire brain, making benign smells malodorous: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130924174150.htm

Here's an article that may offer some ideas for treatments that help — Parosmia: https://www.healthline.com/health/parosmia

Have you discussed the new symptoms with your doctor?

REPLY
@scottula

Looks like I'm over a year late to this conversation, but anyway – I'm currently trying to figure out what's wrong with me

45 years old
On 200-500mg of gabapentin daily, for about 7 months, for nerve pain in my hands caused by some minor cervical impingements
Started Lisinopril 20mg nightly for borderline high blood pressure about 2 months ago

For the last 4 weeks I've had the worst cold-like symptoms I can recall – and 2 negative COVID tests – vaccinated since April.
Tightness in chest, difficulty getting deep breaths, exhaustion, coughing. (coughing is a side effect of Lisinopril)
Before this happened, I was able to run 3 miles every other day with light upper body exercise. This congestion has forced me to cut way back on exercise.

I smell dirt/dust everywhere! Nobody else in my household is having this problem.
I've always had a very strong sense for bad smells, and the Fall Season always brings out the worst in my sinus allergies, but this season has been especially bad, and meds for my cold and allergies would of course open up my nose.
The strong dirt smell is new. I have always been able to smell my own shoe'd feet, anything sweaty, cooked broccoli always reeks.

I have bouts of depression and the worst symptoms of my cold came on during a stressful time. My worst neuropathy came on during last years holiday stress. My mom has a history of thyroid issues and fibromyalgia.

Everyone had a stressful covid year. I've continued to work full time, plus manage 2 freelance projects, both of which I am frustrated with the results of. Full time work is low stress. Interactions with people have become vastly more draining.

I'm so tired of doctors appointments, and while the gabapentin has helped, it's such a low dose that it's hard for me to believe it could be causing side effects. Overall, talking to my multiple doctors hasn't yielded a great change in my results.

I did talk therapy from June 2019-Feb 2020, with couples talk therapy mixed into the middle. Lately I'm avoiding screen time and doing more reading. I'm quite happy to spend time alone, which is hard to do with a family, but I don't want to tear up relationships just so I can be alone.

TMI?

So I'm wondering what role Stress and Anxiety could be playing in all of this, including my neuropathy. Could this all be in my head? And if it's all in my head, how can I fix my head??

And how can I stop smelling dirt everywhere?

any responses much appreciated : )

Jump to this post

@scottula, that sounds miserable. Here's an explanation Mayo Clinic of olfactory hallucination (phantosmia) that makes you detect smells that aren't really present in your environment.

– Phantosmia: What causes olfactory hallucinations? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/temporal-lobe-seizure/expert-answers/phantosmia/faq-20058131

Phantosmia may be caused by upper respiratory infection and you mention that you have issues like congestion, tightness in chest, difficulty getting deep breaths, and exhaustion.

Stress certainly effects our health too, sometimes in surprising ways. You might try this online course. It was written for cancer patients, but I think it is useful for anyone experiencing stress.
– Mayo Clinic Stress Management for Cancer https://mccmscontent.mayo.edu/LSC/stress-management-for-cancer/content/index.html#/

REPLY
@johnbishop

Hello @scottula, Welcome to Connect. While we wait for other members to respond and share their experiences I did find some information supporting that stress and anxiety can play a part in parosmia.

— Feeling stressed makes the world smell worse: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/feeling-stressed-makes-the-world-smell-worse-8844178.html
— A shot of anxiety and the world stinks: How stress can rewire brain, making benign smells malodorous: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130924174150.htm

Here's an article that may offer some ideas for treatments that help — Parosmia: https://www.healthline.com/health/parosmia

Have you discussed the new symptoms with your doctor?

Jump to this post

Thank you for the links, John!
I have now called to schedule another doctor appointment. Feel like a hypochondriac at this point, but will try it again

REPLY
@colleenyoung

@scottula, that sounds miserable. Here's an explanation Mayo Clinic of olfactory hallucination (phantosmia) that makes you detect smells that aren't really present in your environment.

– Phantosmia: What causes olfactory hallucinations? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/temporal-lobe-seizure/expert-answers/phantosmia/faq-20058131

Phantosmia may be caused by upper respiratory infection and you mention that you have issues like congestion, tightness in chest, difficulty getting deep breaths, and exhaustion.

Stress certainly effects our health too, sometimes in surprising ways. You might try this online course. It was written for cancer patients, but I think it is useful for anyone experiencing stress.
– Mayo Clinic Stress Management for Cancer https://mccmscontent.mayo.edu/LSC/stress-management-for-cancer/content/index.html#/

Jump to this post

Thanks Colleen! Going through the course now : )

REPLY

Dear All
I've just found this as a couple of years ago I only occasionally smelled cigarette smoke at my Mother's house and believed that it was either the neighbours or someone passing by on the street.
Fast forward to 1 month ago and, after a severe cold in December I started smelling smoke at my house a little more frequently. Again, I thought it was one of my neighbours (I live in an apartment block).
I had a cold last week now constantly smell cigarette smoke both at home, in the office, in my Greek lesson class, practically everywhere and it seems as though the smoker is sitting right next to me. I've been asking everyone around me if they can smell it and the answer is no.
It's driving me crazy and beginning to get me down.
I quit smoking back in 1986. I am 63 and do not (luckily) take any medication other than the odd Ibuprofene or Paracetamol tablet for headaches (max. 3 times a year).
I called my doctor this morning (the first time I've had to call in two years) and she just prescribed me some Flumicil as I am suffering from coughing fits at night from what feels to me like post nasal drip and she has asked me to take a Covid test, just in case. I do hope that this will help, but it really is beginning to get me down now.
At least I know I'm not alone with this problem, but I so want it to end.

REPLY
@ppditaly

Dear All
I've just found this as a couple of years ago I only occasionally smelled cigarette smoke at my Mother's house and believed that it was either the neighbours or someone passing by on the street.
Fast forward to 1 month ago and, after a severe cold in December I started smelling smoke at my house a little more frequently. Again, I thought it was one of my neighbours (I live in an apartment block).
I had a cold last week now constantly smell cigarette smoke both at home, in the office, in my Greek lesson class, practically everywhere and it seems as though the smoker is sitting right next to me. I've been asking everyone around me if they can smell it and the answer is no.
It's driving me crazy and beginning to get me down.
I quit smoking back in 1986. I am 63 and do not (luckily) take any medication other than the odd Ibuprofene or Paracetamol tablet for headaches (max. 3 times a year).
I called my doctor this morning (the first time I've had to call in two years) and she just prescribed me some Flumicil as I am suffering from coughing fits at night from what feels to me like post nasal drip and she has asked me to take a Covid test, just in case. I do hope that this will help, but it really is beginning to get me down now.
At least I know I'm not alone with this problem, but I so want it to end.

Jump to this post

Welcome @ppditaly, It is somewhat comforting to know you are not alone. I'm wondering if you saw the links @colleenyoung shared with @scottula in an earlier post. Here is the link – https://connect.mayoclinic.org/comment/635780/

Did your doctor mention anything about phantosmia (olfactory hallucinations) or discuss possible treatments?

REPLY
@johnbishop

Welcome @ppditaly, It is somewhat comforting to know you are not alone. I'm wondering if you saw the links @colleenyoung shared with @scottula in an earlier post. Here is the link – https://connect.mayoclinic.org/comment/635780/

Did your doctor mention anything about phantosmia (olfactory hallucinations) or discuss possible treatments?

Jump to this post

No, she didn't mention anything about that but said she wanted to start with the Flumicil to try to clear any mucus which seems to be secreting and disturbing me at night.
She also wants me to test for Covid, just in case.
I've read just about all the posts in this string but as I don't take any medication I now think that an infection or fungus of some sort could be the cause.
I've got humidifiers with essential oils going in the bedroom and in the sitting room in an attempt to cover any odours. I've also got the windows open a fraction now that the outside temperature is better, but I've always aired out the apartment.
I'll take a look at the link and see how I get on with the Flumicil.
Watch this space….

REPLY
@ppditaly

Dear All
I've just found this as a couple of years ago I only occasionally smelled cigarette smoke at my Mother's house and believed that it was either the neighbours or someone passing by on the street.
Fast forward to 1 month ago and, after a severe cold in December I started smelling smoke at my house a little more frequently. Again, I thought it was one of my neighbours (I live in an apartment block).
I had a cold last week now constantly smell cigarette smoke both at home, in the office, in my Greek lesson class, practically everywhere and it seems as though the smoker is sitting right next to me. I've been asking everyone around me if they can smell it and the answer is no.
It's driving me crazy and beginning to get me down.
I quit smoking back in 1986. I am 63 and do not (luckily) take any medication other than the odd Ibuprofene or Paracetamol tablet for headaches (max. 3 times a year).
I called my doctor this morning (the first time I've had to call in two years) and she just prescribed me some Flumicil as I am suffering from coughing fits at night from what feels to me like post nasal drip and she has asked me to take a Covid test, just in case. I do hope that this will help, but it really is beginning to get me down now.
At least I know I'm not alone with this problem, but I so want it to end.

Jump to this post

@ppditaly Good morning and welcome. I see you joined Connect today, on my birthday!😊 Unfortunately, I have no consolation prize to offer.

What I do have is an experience from my working days when my co-worker complained of smelling smoke for a couple of years. She and I sat adjacent to each other and were, and are, still good friends. While I suffered from hypersensitive sensors and could smell anything and everything, I never smelled her claim of smoke. She also was having headaches and occasional migraines which lead her to a neurologist. Inevitably, an MRI found a brain aneurism and she had surgery to remove it. All went well and my friend is now healthy, happy, and no longer smelling smoke. I don't share this to alarm you, and am not saying you have this scenario, but knowledge is power. Do you have a neurologist? If so, have you mentioned smelling smoke to them?

REPLY

Took my first dose of Flumicil before I went to bed last night, together with a nasal spray and a throat spray. No coughing attack or Post Nasal Drip in the early hours and actually slept through to 8.00 am !!!!
No sneezing today and so far just a little 2 minutes of cigarette smoke this morning.
Methinks seriously that it was all due to mucus, sinus and upper airway blockage.
If I have any negative news I report back, otherwise this is one, very happy person.

REPLY
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