Why Do Sinus Infections Smell Bad?

Why Do Sinus Infections Smell Bad?

Explaining the Smell Caused by Sinus Infections

In my career of dealing with patients that have chronic sinusitis (CRS), many have commented on the constant foul smell they experience when they have an active sinus infection. Descriptive terms that I’ve heard in the past include gym socks, locker rooms and foul smelling garbage. Other descriptive terms include rotten fruit or meat and sewage.

Unfortunately for these patients, the location of the infection is the most important cause for the smell because of the proximity of the infection to the olfactory apparatus that processes our ability to smell. However, there are other mitigating circumstances that contribute to the foul smell. These include the type of bacteria associated with a particular patient’s sinus infection.

In most instances, one of the factors involved with a foul smell is due to the microbial make-up that the patient has with their sinus infections. This is mostly seen in patients that have chronic infections. In patients with chronic infections, the microbial make-up is more poly-microbial in nature. In other words, there are multiple bacteria involved, and in some instances, fungi that may be a contributing factor to the smell patients are experiencing.

In addition, patients that have chronic sinusitis are more prone to having anaerobic bacteria as part of the microbial make-up that they are experiencing with these infections. Anaerobic bacteria are notorious for foul smells. Another aspect of the foul smell that people with chronic sinusitis experience is due to an underlying risk factor causing their chronic condition in the first place; which is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

In patients with GERD associated CRS, they usually have organisms in their sinuses that are found in the digestive tract. These include organisms such E. coli, Klebsiella and Enterobacter. As you can imagine, these organisms that are located in our lower digestive tract have a tendency to be a quite odiferous.

Another aspect of the foul smell which occurs with chronic sinusitis appears to be due to nasal polyps. In many instances, nasal polyps are the result of inflammation of the sinuses brought about by fungi. This is usually in association with Allergic Fungal Sinusitis or some other aspect of fungal related chronic sinusitis. Again, in many of these instances, fungi are involved with decomposition, and in most instances, foul smell is associated with decomposition.

The most important realization if you are one of the people that suffer with such an affliction is to get prompt medical help by someone who specializes in the treatment of chronic sinusitis. The treatment should include addressing the immediate infection with antibiotics, then identifying underlying risk factors of chronic sinusitis, such as GERD. Then a long-term game-plan should be implemented to avoid recurrences.

By | 2022-02-07T19:44:50-05:00 April 19th, 2019|Chronic Sinusitis|

About the Author:

I am a passionate blogger, author, speaker and 3X Board Certified MD in Infectious Disease, Internal & Sleep Medicine. I currently am an infectious disease physician in Atlanta, GA for Infectious Disease Consultants.