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Recognition of illness/condition by smell?

Nurses   (11,914 Views | 24 Replies)

973 Profile Views; 37 Posts

Hello,

I'm a current LPN student. I'm currently in Med-Surg and trying to remember common signs and symptoms of common conditions. I know my question might sound weird, but while studying, I was wondering...are there alot of conditions that can be recognized by a smell? Diabetic Ketoacidosis has the fruity or acetone smell as a sign and with wounds you can sometimes smell infections. Just was wondering are there other conditions that has specific smells as a symptom?

Thanks

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EllaBella1 has 5 years experience as a BSN and specializes in ICU.

370 Posts; 4,718 Profile Views

Cdiff. Once you smell it a few times you will be able to smell it from a mile away.

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844 Posts; 14,406 Profile Views

GI bleeds. I've never been able to smell CDiff (and I'm ok with that LOL), but a GI bleed I can smell a mile away.

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KatieMI has 6 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

2 Followers; 1 Article; 2,624 Posts; 43,874 Profile Views

DKA (and other kinds of severe metabolic acidosis with hypermetabolism): "nail polish" like, unpleasant "chemical" smell, mostly from mouth.

Liver failure: strange, very unpleasant sweetish smell, mostly from mouth. Some people describe it as "rotten apple" but for me it is more like fresh meat. It causes impression of patient being dirty doesn't matter how much you clean him; I saw CNAs "diagnosing" patients because they wondered why the guy smelled like that right after bath and clean bed.

Renal failure: "old urine" smell from everywhere.

P. aerugenosa: characteristic smell and greenish color of wound or sputum

Melena: dark maroon stool and unmisticable odor

C.diff: liquid diarrhea and other awful, yet "diagnostic" smell

Change of smell during tracheal suction toward extremely bad, "rotten" odor, no improvement after intense mouth hygiene: almost diagnostic for lung abscess development.

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37 Posts; 973 Profile Views

Thank you for the responses. During my clinicals last semester, I was assigned a patient with C. Diff. Initially he was hospitalized and transfered to the nursing home where I had clinicals. The smell that you refer to, is it from their stools? Its kind of weird, but while I cared for him, he never had to use the restroom. He had a foley and whenever I asked if he had to poop, he didn't.

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Fiona59 has 18 years experience.

1 Follower; 8,320 Posts; 53,737 Profile Views

Thank you for the responses. During my clinicals last semester, I was assigned a patient with C. Diff. Initially he was hospitalized and transfered to the nursing home where I had clinicals. The smell that you refer to, is it from their stools? Its kind of weird, but while I cared for him, he never had to use the restroom. He had a foley and whenever I asked if he had to poop, he didn't.

There are strains of cdiff that are odourless. The last Cdiff patient I cared for had orange, almost gelatinous, odour free feces.

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CelticGoddess has 6 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Palliative, Onc, Med-Surg, Home Hospice.

1 Follower; 894 Posts; 11,678 Profile Views

Head and neck cancers have a peculiar odor. Hard to describe, it just a very unpleasant odor. After caring for a couple of people with this type of cancer, we could walk past a room and ID the odor.

Of course gangrene has a bad odor.

I had a patient who had an aspergillus infection in her lungs and she had a musty, stale odor about her. It was worse when she started coughing up blood.

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AceOfHearts<3 specializes in Critical care.

896 Posts; 14,674 Profile Views

Don't forget yeast. I can smell when a patient is developing yeast before I can see the impact on the skin most of the time.

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NurseSpeedy has 18 years experience as a ADN, LPN, RN.

1,426 Posts; 18,864 Profile Views

End stage renal disease can have a foul odor on the skin. Not all have it, but have seen with some

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Elvish is a BSN, DNP, RN, NP and specializes in Community, OB, Nursery.

3 Followers; 17 Articles; 5,259 Posts; 68,178 Profile Views

Chorioamnionitis. Never misdiagnosed it based on smell.

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1,273 Posts; 8,232 Profile Views

A patient with a bad head bleed will often get Neuro Breath.

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560 Posts; 9,132 Profile Views

Melena. I've worked on floors where you could literally smell it as soon as you stepped off the elevator. I swear that scent sticks to everything!

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