Do you sometimes smell smoke, but no one else does and there is nothing burning around you? Do you family and friends think you are crazy because you smell something burning? It turns out that menopause and phantom smells, especially smoke, is a symptom of this change in life.
What are phantom smells?
According to our survey research at Morphus, 22% of women in perimenopause and menopause experience phantom smells.
Phantom smells, also known as phantosmia or olfactory hallucination, are smells someone detects yet there is nothing there to cause the odor. The smells typically vary from person to person, but they are usually unpleasant, such as burning cigarettes, mold, chemicals, or burnt toast. People may experience these smells for a few hours, days, or even weeks.
The offending smells may be caused by sinusitis or other conditions affecting the olfactory system (e.g., nasal polyps, allergic rhinitis, nasal tumors), or they may be associated with brain trauma, schizophrenia, migraine, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression, or stroke.
However, research indicates that 52 to 72 percent of smell disorders are related to sinus issues. When this is the case, you may experience a stronger smell in one nostril than the other.
When phantom smells are associated with the brain, the smells are more persistent.
Phantom smells can be life altering because they can affect your sense of taste, which may result in a loss of appetite and weight loss. Some people become depressed and anxious when living with this symptom.
How are phantom smells associated with menopause?
Truthfully, no one knows for sure. If you search on the internet for phantom smells during menopause, you will find lots of women writing in forums and chat rooms about this symptom. Why is this happening to them? Are they going crazy?
It’s believed that the decline in estrogen affects the olfactory system, which has estrogen receptors. The lack of this hormone may cause women to experience smells that don’t exist in the environment.
How can you manage phantom smells naturally?
The good news is phantom smells typically go away on their own, although it may take days, weeks, or even months. They also may return. The other good news is that they are relatively harmless, although they can be distressing.
If the nasal passages are involved in any way, use of saline rinses may help. Use of a neti pot and a saline solution may bring relief.
Some people report that using essential oil diffusers sometimes help mask the offending odors.
when to see your doctor
If the phantom smells persist for more than a few days and/or they are disrupting your daily activities or ability to work, consult your doctor. There may be an underlying medical condition beyond the unusual smells.
Phantom smells may be part of the menopause experience. If you are in menopause and smell something rotten when there’s no reason, you may be a member of the phantom smell club. If a natural approach or patience and time don’t work, see your doctor.