CDiff Smell?


Sorry if this sounds gross but I keep reading on these msg boards that one of the worse smells in nursing is from a pt with CDiff after they go to the bathroom.

How does it smell differently from a normal pt?

68 Answers


90 Posts

Specializes in Educator/ICU/ER. Has 18 years experience.

C Diff has its' own smell, as does GI bleed and the dreaded "neuro" smell. You will find that you can almost diagnose a pt. just by the smell. Wierd, but true! Keep your olfactories working!


1,174 Posts

Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Medsurge. stale bread...tinged with a little skunk...and allowed to ferment to give it that special smelled ya don't want to get to know ya effect.


1,927 Posts

It has it's own smell. I know before the tests are back if a pt is c-diff or not. I've been right 100% of the time.

GI bleeds, to me, smell like I have nickels in my mouth. Very metallic.

Now, what's a neuro smell? I have yet to experience that.

Hoozdo, ADN

1,555 Posts

Specializes in ICU, Research, Corrections. Has 15 years experience.

It smells like using an outhouse or J-John during 3 months of 110+ degree temperature days. It does not smell like normal poop; it smells like something that has been dead and laying in the hot sun with just a slight tang of poop smell :trout:

Specializes in Education, Acute, Med/Surg, Tele, etc. Has 13 years experience.

Oh c-diff..yep! Infact, a nurse smelled it today and did us at the nursing desk! Oh know that one!

To me it is like that rotten chicken meat smell, (like when you smell that chicken and go..."no way..can't make this tonight! PUEWWWWWW") mixed with baby diaper sweet smell (like when they are very young!), mixed with old blood smell. Once you smell won't forget!

Trained nurses even know that yeast or UTI smell! I can even tell what antibiotic most folks are on by having to take I/O on foleys or urinals!

Nicer to know it...even by smell..than to be suprised later on! And many a smart Doc will trust a good nurse and do tests or prescribe abx based on a nurses sense of smell!

Don't worry to those that are new...goes with the territory, and very diagnostic (and at the RN desk..can be the topic of hillarious stories!).

Yeah it is gross...but hey, it is nature, best to remember and get a good giggle if you can (not giggle near patient!), than get grossed out!

Imafloat, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,289 Posts

Has 13 years experience.

I think it smells like road kill on a 100 degree day mixed with silent but deadly flatus.

Once in clinical we were walking down a med-surg hall. My fellow student looks at me, wrinkles her nose and says (quietly) "it smells like someone on this hall has CDiff." To which the other student said, "ummm, no, I think that's their lunch trays." This hospital had a 'soup' that was supposedly chicken. It was a red broth. The unit always smelled like that soup and it was bad.


524 Posts

Specializes in Neuro ICU, Neuro/Trauma stepdown. stale bread....

yup, i was gonna say mildew...

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho.

And to add to the above conditions with their own odar. Fecal impaction has its own odar also. Consistency is a factor too. Someone with an impaction will have a sandy gritty consistency to liquid stool. It all comes with experience soon you too will be able to identify by smell and consistency!! LOL

I agre with the urine too. You can definately tell the differences between antibiotics with odar to urine.


524 Posts

Specializes in Neuro ICU, Neuro/Trauma stepdown.
Fecal impaction has its own odar also.

it has an odor all right. the big problem is that odor is coming out the wrong end!!

Specializes in Adolescent Psych, PICU.

Cdiff is one of those smells that I try not to gag when I smell smells bad. Plus isn't it mucousy poop? PLus I always feel like I still have that cdiff smell on me when I get home.


615 Posts

Specializes in LTC/Skilled Care/Rehab.

Does C Diff smell different in kids? My son is taking antibiotics right now for C Diff, but his poop doesn't smell like any of these things. I know Rotavirus has a strong smell because my son also had that a couple of years ago. I'm not a nurse yet, so I am interested since I have never smelled CDiff. Thanks


10 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg, Telemetry, Float, ER.

The c-Diff smell is just 'special'. Can't really put it into words...smelt GI bleeds whoever said 'metal/nickel like was dead on...

Can sometimes smell sepsis and impaction by people's breath odor .. ahhh I'll miss the ER when its my time to go :monkeydance:...