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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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What causes an altered sense of smell?

About 3 months ago, after leaning over the tub to rinse my hair, I smelled a burned hair smell that lasted for several hours. I do not use hair dryers or other heat appliances on my hair and did not use any chemicals on my hair, just shampoo and conditioner. I thought it was the shampoo and decided to never use it again. About two weeks ago I began to experience that same smell again and alternatively a worse rotting odor in my nose. I can smell it most any time that I lean my head forward and down. I have also been able to smell it if I take a strong sniff . I have some nasal congestion and have post-nasal drip when I sleep. I have been using Flonase and Azelastine twice a day for the past two years as prescribed by my allergist. I discontinued both a week ago but the bad smells did not subside. I occassionally use Afrin to relieve nasal congestion. I wonder if i may have a sinus infection. I have worked at a hospital for the past 34 years and I know that an ENT will want to get a sinus CT which I want to avoid if possible due to cost as well as a preference to limit radiation exposure as much as I can. I plan to try a Neti-pot beginning this evening. Does this sound like I need to get medical attention asap or try handling it myself first?
Mon, 18 Jun 2018
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Dentist 's  Response
Hello and Welcome to ‘Ask A Doctor’ service.
I have reviewed your query and here is my advice.

As per your complain the symptoms of strange smell through nose when bending down along with nasal congestion seems to be due to a condition known as Phantosmia..
It can occur due to a number of conditions like nasal infection and polyps, migranes, Oral and dental infection, smoking habit, condition related to Nervous System like Parkinsonism, Alzimer's Disease, Stroke, head injury etc..
However your condition seems to be probably related to sinus infection or Sinusitis.
I will suggest you to consult an Otolaryngologist and get evaluated and along with clinical evaluation investigations like Nasal endoscopy, MRI, CT Scan etc can help in diagnosis and treatment can be planned accordingly..
As of now you can do saline nasal irrigation, steam inhalation with few drops of Eucalyptus oil in water,chew flavoured sugar free chewing gum and limit intake of high aroma foods like onion and garlic..

Hope I have answered your query. Let me know if I can assist you further.
Dr. Honey Arora
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