It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a burning smell in nose. That’s because the potential causes are many.
One possible explanation for this symptom is sinus congestion. A lot of people suffer from this, so you shouldn’t rule it out.
People with sinus problems sometimes smell things that aren’t there, too. Generally, if the symptom is chronic, you’ll want to see a doctor to rule out something serious.
They’ll perform a thorough exam to rule out tumors or seizure disorders.
Is a Burning Smell in Nose an Emergency?
Honestly, there’s no way to know unless you speak with a doctor.
For instance, some patients who have had (or are having) strokes will experience “Phantom Smells”. They may also experience a burning sensation in nose, too.
Patients with dementia might also experience this symptom. If you’re young and healthy, it’s not a likely cause.
However, you should still rule it out with your doctor. Some doctors suggest that a phantom smell could be a sign of a brain tumor.
Even infections and cysts in the area of the brain that processes smell can cause this. The temporal lobe is the area of the brain responsible for processing smell.
If it experiences trauma in some way, it can lead you to smelling things that aren’t there. Even stress has been known to cause this symptom:
Common Olfactory Hallucinations
Are you experiencing any other olfactory hallucinations along with your burning smell in nose?
For example, are you smelling “icky” odors like bad perfume, garbage, a gas leak, wet dog, or hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs)?
If so, it might be associated with an onset of a migraine. In some cases, it might also be associated with Alzheimer’s.
However, this is extremely rare if you’re young. Remember that smell disorders as a whole aren’t that rare.
It’s estimated that nearly 3 million Americans suffer from them. A decreased ability to smell is called “Hyposmia”, while an inability to smell is called “Anosmia”.
However, a distortion in smell (which is what you’re experiencing) is referred to as “Parosmia”.
People who fall in this category might also have a sweet taste in mouth (since both senses are located near each other in the brain).
Phantom smells can happen in one nostrils or both. It can last for a few minutes, a few days, or even a few weeks.
It might even be chronic in some patients. Some people end up living with this condition forever.
What Happens in Extreme Cases?
If an unpleasant odor like a burning smell in nose doesn’t go away, it can cause a person to lose weight. Why?
Because they can’t stand the taste of food (remember- both senses are linked).
If a primary cause isn’t found, a doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, since phantom smells can cause people to develop depression and/or suicidal behavior.
Dr. Donald Leopold from the University of Nebraska Medical Center said that “Nearly 50% of patients who seek surgery for their smell disorders have at one point or another considered suicide” (we paraphrased).
These patients simply don’t know how to deal with their disorder. If you’re in this situation, never give up and find ways to stay positive.
Diagnosing Smells That Aren’t There
There are three main tests that can help a doctor determine what’s causing your symptom:
- CT Scan
These will reveal things like tumors, epilepsy, or sinus infections. Unfortunately, in a large percentage of cases, the primary cause is never found.
Even though diagnosing this symptom can be difficult, there are potential remedies.
For example, you can try sedatives, anti-depressants, or nasal saline drops. Another effective procedure that provides relief is surgery. But most people tend to leave this as a last resort.
Do you have HIV? If so, know that AIDS can sometimes cause a burning smell in nose.
Hypothyroidism, which is quite common, is another possibility. Older patients may want to be on the lookout for diseases like stroke, diabetes, or leprosy.
Try an In-Home Smell Test
A great way to test your sense of smell is to try this test: Take chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream and place them in separate cups side by side.
Now, try to see if you can distinguish each one via smell and via taste. If you can’t do this (they both taste and smell the same) then this definitely isn’t normal from a physiological standpoint.
Are You Smelling Cigarette Smoke?
People who experience a burning smell in nose oftentimes smell cigarette smoke too (even if they don’t smoke). They may both be present together, or show up separately.
Either way, they’re both very likely originating from the same cause. If your doctor can figure out what that cause is and treat it, then both of them should go away.
Don’t Settle Until You Get an Answer
At the end of the day, this is a potentially serious symptom that you need to get answers for. Don’t just settle for an “I don’t know” from your doctor.
Just because one particular doctor can’t figure out the cause, doesn’t mean that another one can’t as well. Consult a few different expert opinions until you find out what’s wrong.
If it does end up being something like cancer, the sooner you begin treatment, the better chance you have at surviving.
To summarize, a symptom like this can be caused by many different things. Nasal polyps, dental problems, tumors, cysts, Alzheimer’s, and infections can be to blame.
If it’s can infection, then taking antibiotics should make your symptoms go away.
If it’s a tumor, its location and state (malignant or benign) will determine what steps the doctors next. Wait a few days and see if your symptoms go away. If they don’t, schedule a visit with your doctor.