National Migraine Centre
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strange smells during migraine / aura

Does anyone else smell things that aren't there when they are having a migraine? I know some people get migraines from strong odours, and others find their sense of smell is more sensitive. If I'm having a bad one I hallucinate smells - usually unpleasant things like rotten eggs, nail polish remover, fly spray, burnt cheese on toast, and most peculiarly (in the library of all places) the liquid antibiotics they give to children (which is vile, ask any 5 year old).

I am now very suspicious of any odd smells and go around like a Bisto Kid sniffing the air in an attempt to work out if they're real or not!

Am just curious to know if this happens to anyone else.

10 Replies

I think that when you are migrainous your senses become heightened and that smells you would not usually notice become invasive and sometimes offensive.

1 like

When I have aura it is heightened sense of smells. For example, Someone's subtle aftershave or perfume will be massively offensive. Also sounds and visuals are amplified. It's weird and always so difficult to describe to non-migrainers!


it is completely normal to have phantom smells with migraine, i usually smell smoke in the middle of the night and am comvinced the house is on fire!

i have occipital nerve block injections which have greatly improved this. you can get them at the national migraine centre or download their informationa but them from their site. good luck.


Hi Rosianna

I had an occiptal block a couple of years ago but apart from creating some odd sensations across my scalp it didn't ease the migraines. However, I'm doing really well with botox now - at least the headaches are much better, even if all the other funny symptoms haven't changed.


Hello teadrinker, I have copied and pasted some text from one of our factsheets to prove that this is quite common!

The most common accompanying symptoms to the headache phase are dislike of light, dislike of sound and nausea. Some people become more sensitive to certain smells and strong smells may even trigger an attack.


Hello Teadrinker.

Be asured you are far from alone. My Mum used to smell rubber plimsoles, I smell burnt toast and other migraneurs I know also smell other odd things. I often get the smell as a warning and sometimes quite appreciate it as it's the ONLY warning I get...

I've learned to accept it and I don't let it worry me now - in fact I laugh about it - and given some of the odd things you seem to smell I'd be inclined to do the same... :-)


Yes use this warning to your advantage, so that you take your medication early!


Haha I wish I'd seen this sooner to when you wrote it. I keep trying to find others who experience this but most don't.

I'm getting to the point I can't trust my sense of smell, touch and sight due to migraines.

I feel rain, or trickling randomly, I smell blood, wet dogs, and such, and I see glitter, stars and dust almost all the time amongst other things.

Migraine is a strange world.


I can't believe I wrote that post 4 years ago! My migraines are muc better at the moment & the imaginary smells don't happen very often now. Hope everyone else gets some respite too.


Yes, unfortunately. I smell stinky feet and poopy oder. I check shoes and nothing. I have 3 boys and 2 dogs but we house is ultra super clean cause I'm a germaphobe. I also spray lavender all over the house so that it doesn't have weird oders. But yet right before I get a really bad migraine I get to smell yucky stinky feet and poopy oder. It's absolutely awful. I have chronic cluster migraines. Botox didn't work for me. I find that Ketamine Infusions have helped. Good luck all!


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