An odd question I know but has anyone else experienced smelling cigarette smoke when none is present?

I am a female, non-smoker but I have this almost daily recurrent olfactory hallucination that I can smell cigarette smoke. The smell, which is definately a phantom one as no one is smoking in my bedroom in the middle of the night nor at the gym when I am working out, is very strong, makes my eyes water and can last for hours. I googled this and there is a site where many people say they suffer from this exact problem. I read about fifty of the posts and what struck me is that a significant number of them are non smokers and are hypothyroid. I have been hypothyroid for over twenty years now and although my doctor would say I am hyper thyroid based on my blood test results I have none of the typical hyperthyroid symptoms and feel, for the most part, quite well and begin to feel unwell about a month to six weeks after the endo orders a reduction. Could phantom smoke smells be related to hypo or hyper thyroidism? Your responses would be most welcome. I do actually have an MRI scheduled for September 28th but only because I asked for one since two of my mothers three siblings died of brain tumours - at ages 46 and 60 and I am now 53.

43 Replies

  • It is possible it is thyroid related but I am glad you are being properly investigated. I have epilepsy (completely controlled/cured now) and an aura before a seizure would include phantom smells, usually smoky.

    I hope it is indeed thyroid related and nothing more sinister.

    All the best

    Carolyn x

  • Thankyou Carolyn for your swift response - I too hope it is not serious - maybe related to a recent sinus infection, maybe hormonal or maybe I am still undermedicated - I am supplementing my prescribed dose of 137 mg of levo with 25 mg (cut up 100s) to bring me back up to where I was two decreases ago. Also under enormous stress at work so would also consider that too. There are just so many possibilities so the MRI is to hopefully rule out any brain lesions or tumours.

  • Think there is a good chance it is connected to your recent sinus infection, good luck x

  • I suffered with it for months ..asking family if they could also smell smoke ...I too ex smoker of over 2 years and now hypothyroid. ..I smelt it everywhere....asked doctor whilst in surgery for something else he said chronic sinus infection and gave me strong antibiotics. more smoke smells ....hope your ok too

  • Ah that is good news Lola and given my recent bout at the end of June with a sinus infection perhaps that is what has caused it as the sensation came on within three weeks of finishing the course of antibiotics prescribed for it.

  • Yes that's what happened with me ..obviously you need more antibiotics

  • I used to smell burning wood a lot before diagnosis/treatment

  • I used to smell burning when in bed during night x

  • I too had it frequently before I started treatment.

  • Also had phantom electrical burning smell at night (can't smell/taste otherwise).

    May I ask if you used to smoke?

  • I was a smoker for over twenty years but haven't had a cigarette now in over 5 years. My husband doesn't smoke and our house is also smoke free - so is the gym and my office - mind you many of my staff smoke so there is second hand smoke odour on their clothing. My adult son is also a smoker but lives on his own but he too smells of smoke. I do notice that if I press firmly on my cheeks beside my nose and breathe i that I don't smell the smoke but as soon as I release my cheeks the smell is still there. This started about three weeks ago but last week I had 2 days in a row where I wasn't plagued with the smell. Sometimes, like right now, the smell is so strong that my eyes water.

  • Yes I smoked too but gave up last birthday - I kind of hoped my sense of smell would return - my eyes water from chopping onions but I can't even smell them - very weird. Totally gone since my Thyroid op. Have you read up about zinc? I keep forgetting to take zinc & B3 tablets, what with everything else!

    It seems too much of a co-incidence that it appeared after your sinus infection IMHO.

    I hope it goes soon, must be horrid J :D

  • I have an underactive thyroid and narcolepsy. Found out a few years ago that intense sense of smell and hallucinations can come with narcolepsy, which explains a lot. If underactive thyroid does the same then that is just great. I used to think the smell of smoke came from next door, but when it was in my bedroom found it was smell from rubber-soled boots. Thankfully live in a detached house now.

    I doubt it is coincidence that Parkinsons kills your sense of smell- there are odd links between all these auto immune conditions, even ones which seem mirror images.

    Have now read the previous replies: noted the bit about pre epileptic auras. When I had a protracted EEG they found I had peculiar wave patterns, neurologist could not tell me what they meant, but I do not have seizures, wonder if this is relared too?

  • When I (eventually dared to have) mentioned my loss of smell the GP sat back and laughed, 'and when did that happen! grr... (I think I may have exceeded the number of symptoms allowed to be presented on one consultation.. oops)

    Thanks bellk, you have confirmed my thoughts that it should have been taken seriously, grr again...

  • In the little research I was able to find on the subject it seems as well that this perception of smelling non existent smoke can be an aura prior to the onset of a migraine and apparently you can have a migraine without the intense pain one usually assoociates with one. My mother gets these auras so maybe I am developing them as well as she didn't always have them and she too is hypothyroid.

  • My wife and I very occasionally smell cigarette smoke in the landing in the old part of our house (built in the early 1700s).

    We have always thought that this was a visit by one of the ghost of one of the previous residents who had died in the house.

    There's lots in the internet about cigarette smoke smell, old houses and ghosts.

    Both my wife and I are hypothyroid, but it has never occurred to us to think of any link between this and the very occasional smell.

  • ooh - spooky! :D

  • Hello Orange girl

    Yes exactly as you said in the middle off the night , I can taste it . I was a smoker and stopped on 6/1/2003 never touched one since . The cigarette smoke smell comes and goes by that I mean it last for hour then may not have it for week then get it frequently there is no pattern but mainly before I go to sleep and during the night . I have under active thyroid and don't have a check very often DR does nt seem bothered I'm on 150mcg levothyroxine once a day but I will make an effort to get it checked and request my result and ask clever folk here what it all means. I hope your scan is ok love , it must be a scary time for you but I will be wishing you well love squeak xx

  • Thanks Piggysqueak. What I do know is that if the smell only lasts for several seconds then it is classified as an olfactory halucination but mine like yours happen for hours at a time, almost daily and like you I cannot establish any patttern to it. I thought perhaps it could be stress induced (physical like when running or working out or psychological like in the work that I do) but sadly it is not always present when I am under stress.

  • I feel that it's all B3's fault - niacin aka nicotenic acid,

    every cell needs it for metabolism, and it's in memory somewhere, but I have no proof!

  • I had an MRI scan recently and I was very nervous but a lady came out smiling and we got chatting and she helped me no end . She said choose era of music 70, 80, 90 etc then think back to who you dated, who you wanted to date who your friends were and let the music take you back in time . There is a lovely cool fan blowing eyes closed could be the breeze or sea breeze . And she told me to shut my eyes as soon as possible before I was moved so as soon as I lay down and got comfy and keep them shut till it was over and I was moved out of machine . It worked hope it helps you or anyone else who read this .all the best love Squeak xx

  • Sounds nice, phew :)

    although I was offered music on the leaflet & duly brought my Fleetwood mac CD, I wouldn't have heard a darn thing from the banging and clanging going on for over an hour in my poor earoles, and repeated 3 months later (I shivered uncontrollably both times - I'm sure the pics were blurred)

    However managed to drift into thoughts about being in the (very noisy) tardis, there was a pattern & I was listening for it (I have a musical ear, just the one) AND - the best bit - it didn't hurt yay! unlike previous nerve conduction tests & EM flippin G on an Amstrad breadbin and other poky tests to see which nerves were working, & then 2 lots of painful physio for the doc to make sure your not faking it, but he insisted on textbook arm-bending just in case - worse than dentists

    For the record - I am much much better now thanks ...

    or is it a feeling that I don't want to go back.. strange that... J :D

  • I am nearly falling onto the floor ! Are you spare rib being serious about your scan . I know it's not funny but believe me you have written it so well I was hoping to make orange girl feel better about her scan and although I was in loads of pain it was as I describe except for me being in pain . Thank god we are all born differently and feel differently and I'm very glad that I had my scan and not yours take care keep smiling squeak xx

  • Good to hear Piggysqueak as I am a bit clausrophobic but the good doctor gave me a script for 3 Valium in case I think I may need it.

  • I have smelt pipe tobacco in our house once or twice many years ago but I do think we had a ghostly 'resident' at the time. I remember reading that George Gerwin smelt something burning just prior to suffering a stroke.

  • I read somewhere that people with hypo have a very keen sense of smell. Like you, I can often smell tobacco when there is nobody near me smoking.

    I also smell cannabis smoke from far away, and even if a car goes past me while I am out on the bike, I can smell if somebody inside has a joint going (even if the windows are closed), and can smell if for some time after the car is gone.

    In winter when the windows are all closed, I can smell the petrol fumes of a car starting 50 metres down the road.

    If I ever get well enough, I'm going to apply to join the sniffer dog section of the police. ;-)

  • Hypoptamus - LOL - If my sense of smell was that keen I'd want a job wine tasting.

  • Hi, yes I have had the same and am so relieved to read your post as I though I was going mad or being haunted! It is usually in my bedroom and again no one smokes in the house. I am 57 and was diagnosed when I was eleven and medicated successfully until my early 50's when my medication was reduced and have been suffering from all manner of things since, including this.

    Good luck with the scan and let us know how it goes x

  • Will do JanieJ. I also read that this change in smell can be hormonol and I am now in perimenapause.

  • I don't smell cigarette smoke, but I do occasionally smell other odd things which other people say are definitely not present. My sense of taste is rubbish too - all symptoms which medics don't seem to care about so I tend not to make a fuss about them.

  • I also had the smell of cigarette smoke. After a very long investigative period I was found to have a pituitary tumor. The tumor was removed and was benign. I am now on growth hormone due to the disruption of the pituitary. I have not had the smell since my surgery.

  • OrangeGirl - Do you have the results of your MRI? I have the same situation and am investigating. I have an annual check up coming and will inquire about it. I found this and while I'm not worried, it has me curious:

  • Hi skinnymoo. Sorry I hadn't responded sooner but was having difficulties accessing the site because of an outdated browser. Yes I did get the results and everything was normal. Actually had to call my doctors office to find out and was told everything looked fine. Still smell cigarette smoke though - not everyday but every several weeks or so I will smell smoke for several days at a time. Maybe it's stress related or sinus related.

  • I would just like to say I have not smelled smoke for over a week now.and that is when I stopped taking sugar in my coffee. Hope this helps.

  • I would just like to say I have not had a smell of smoke for a week now, as I stopped taking sugar in my coffee. Hope this works.

  • just been to a private hospital the doctor he put a camera up my nose and he said I have got a bit of crusting up my nose on the other side of the flap in your nose all though I have always got a runny nose I never thought my nose would be dry further up told him about strokes and brain tumor but he told me get this prescription of my doctor for salene spray try it .

  • Last year when my TSH wasn't registering, I could smell my cigarette smoke when im Hyper now that my TSH is registering I could smell cigarette smoke smell when I'm hypo... It's just weird, Im still trying to figure this out. I told my Dr. about it she said it had nothing to do with it... So what now?? I'll figure this thing out someday... :}

  • Yes!! It's driving me crazy. I am an ex smoker 2+ years and my house and car smoke free. It comes and goes and lasts for hours sonetimes throat burning eyes burn.

    I noticed it a month or so before being diagnosed with HYPER thyroidism not hypo

    I do get ocular migraines but the two are not related. I don't have a sinus infection.

    Is there anything to be done to mask it till it goes away? I won't have surgery for this. It never occurred to me to mention it to the doctor.

  • Hi

    I have the same symptoms - except a little different.

    All I need is a whiff of smoke and it goes into the cavity behind my eyes, via the sinuses.

    Then for days the strong pungent smell reoccurs, like recirculated second hand smoke.

    Yes the reoccurrence is phantom but caused by a real process.

    I went to my mothers rest home and there is an old biddy there who smokes a particular menthol brand of cigarettes and it was a whiff of this that caused the last occurrence.

    I did a sinus rinse to see if that helped - it didn't..

    Interesting link with hyperthyroidism.

    Looking now at Graves' disease.

    Very annoying condition.

  • I just googled this and so relieved there was a thread about it on here! I visited my dad a couple of days ago and his wife and step daughter smoke since then all I can smell is cigarettes it's making me nauseaous. I've never been a smoker and think I'm leaning towards being hyper at the mo. Was starting to worry I might be having some sort of brain issue :-s

    Might try the zinc and B vitamin route to see if that helps.

  • Hi, l'm jools9. If you read mine, you ll realise that you are not alone...

  • Anyone have any updates on this. I went to a concert last Saturday night and there was sooo much smoke. I smell it still and it's Tuesday. I'm really freaking out.

  • I have also started to smell cigarette smoke quite frequently. It's really weird. It sounds like I should make an appointment with my GP to discuss it. I never expected to read anything about this on here.

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