The Smell Of Sickness

MrRING

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Has anybody ever heard of this? I was working with this guy this weekend who claimed to be able to smell impending or current sickness in people's breath... is this a widely recognized method for sensing illness, or has no one ever heard of it before?
 
One of the applications for electronic noses is to detect certain kinds of illness from people's breath - things like diabetes and stomach ulcers can be detected that way. I'm unsure what range of diseases this would be useful for and I'm unsure if the human nose (or even a dog one) would be senstiive enough to tell but.....
 
Yes, i've heard of this, there's a book I read some time back which mentions a gentleman telling a woman to see her doctor asap as he smelt an illness on her breath, it turns out she had a nearly ruptured appendix. My mother is occassionally able to do it with relatives, but then it's always something like an impending cold.
 
I've heard of this, a dentist can tell the difference between bad breath caused by rotten teeth and summat else. Years ago D'Mother dragged me to the dentist intent on having all my teeth removed (without the aid of an anaesthetic presumably :rolleyes: ) because as she so subtly put it "your breath's honking!" I sat in the dentist's chair pissing my pants, he looks in my gob, says "have you got a cough, or sore throat?" Well now you mention it ... He takes me back out to the waiting room and tells D'Mother loudly to take me to the doctor and get something for that sore throat that I'd got. She's was fuming
And isn't there supposed to be a correlation between odd tastes and various illnesses?
 
when i was little, i went to a children's doctor who scared the hell out of me. he seemed ancient, and wore an old black suit, and his office was in the top of an old building and was only lit by a few table lamps. lots of books, dark wood, and stuffed leather chairs. he was locally famous and good. he always blew his nose between every patient because he claimed he could smell their illness. dr. mackiterick. he burned the warts off my butt. thanks, doc. :)
 
Messalina said:
Yes, i've heard of this, there's a book I read some time back which mentions a gentleman telling a woman to see her doctor asap as he smelt an illness on her breath, it turns out she had a nearly ruptured appendix. My mother is occassionally able to do it with relatives, but then it's always something like an impending cold.
Certainly this particular example makes some sense - a major infection in the digestive tract is going to smell pretty bad, and all the digestive tract is in essence is a tube running from bumhole to mouth. There is a possibility that the smell of the infection could be transmitted out through the mouth, although it would have to come through the u-bend created by the stomach and duodenum.

As a further addition to what Emps said about electronic noses detecting possible diabetes through breath samples, one quick and dirty (;)) way in which diabetes can be diagnosed is through tasting the urine - if it's sweet, there is a good chance that there is some degree of diabetes present, as the body is less able to process sugars and they are excreted directly in the urine.

Caveat on all the above - I'm not a medic, but I have been told the above by sources I trust. As always, willing to be corrected :)
 
When my daughter had a ruptured appendix recently her breath smelt like a week-dead badger :cross eye, that was the main thing that made me think "this isn't a normal stomach ache" and get her up to the doctor sharpish.

Also, I've always suffered from tonsillitis and I find that for a couple of days before a bout of it I can 'taste' it on my breath. Not nice.
 
Sick people have a sweetish smell to them, fairly easy to detect once it has been pointed out to you.
 
From experience - you can tell whether someone is an undiagnosed diabetic by their breath - if it smells like fruity nail polish remover they may be suffering from Diabetic Ketoacidosis which means that they have no insulin in their blood and are about to go into a coma and possibly die (around about 2% do even with treatment).
 
An old boyfriend of mine once told me out of the blue that I was ovulating and that he knew because he could smell it in my breath. I was tracking my cycle at the time... and according to my observations he was right. :D
 
My father in-law is has jaundice at the moment and can't stand tea. Normally he was a 10 cup a day man.
 
smelling death

Even worse I know someone who can smell death. Even when soemone appears okay, and I know its true because I work in the nursing profession and have seen it coem true. Its true that thre is a certain smell at the very end which is discernable from the all the toxins being released but I'm not talking about that stage.
barbara
 
I pretty sure that one could detect a sinus infection this way also. I don't know how far gone the patient would have to be for this to be commonly noticable.
 
I've had bad toothache for about 2 months now, 2 courses of antibiotics, a dental check-up, x-ray and now re-filled tooth still aching. Have smelt the illness on my own breath all this time.

My ex-boyfriend used to be able to tell me when I was going to be ill this way also, before even I knew about it. He was always right. He used to say I felt 'hotter' than usual (excuse the pun) temperature wise, yet I didn't feel any different.

I can tell when my daughter is ill because I can smell it on her breath too.

The mothering instinct?
 
I always get this special taste in my mouth some days before I get a cold. It doesn't taste bad at all, in fact it makes me think of candy and I always rack my brain trying to work out what kind, but i never remember. :) Seems reasonable that if I can taste it, someone else can smell it.
 
I can smell sickness on my husband and kids before they show any definite signs of illness - not just on their breath, but a change in their general body odour.

I figure I can only tell with them because I know what their usual odour is like - its not an unpleasant smell, just noticeably different to the usual - and it does have a slight sweetness to it.
 
Can't say I've smelt an illness but people who are dying smell very distinctive.
 
I always get this special taste in my mouth some days before I get a cold. It doesn't taste bad at all, in fact it makes me think of candy and I always rack my brain trying to work out what kind, but i never remember. Seems reasonable that if I can taste it, someone else can smell it.

I always liken it to cough candy twist - those red swirl design lozenge shaped sweets that I used to buy by the bag load as a kid.

I could never eat them around my mum because she said the smell always brought her out in a sweat.

Blowing on her while sucking one on these sweets was extremely funny.

The smack round the head after wasn't
 
Electronic Nose Detects Lung Cancer
02 Jun 2005


The exhaled breath from patients with lung cancer has distinct characteristics that allow those with the disease to be identified by an "electronic nose," according to a report in the first issue for June 2005 of the American Thoracic Society's peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers reported the results of measuring exhaled breath of 14 individuals with bronchogenic carcinoma and 45 control subjects without cancer to develop the screening capability.

The authors said that they hypothesized that an "electronic nose" would detect lung cancer on the basis of complex "smellprints" of numerous volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath from individuals with lung cancer as compared with either other non-cancerous lung disease or healthy controls.

According to the authors, analysis of results from the "electronic nose" demonstrated its ability to discriminate between samples from lung cancer patients and those from other groups during the initial discovery and training phase of the study.

Next, the researchers tested the "electronic nose" on 14 lung cancer cases, and 62 without the disease. Of the 14 cancer patients, 10 had a positive exhaled breath test, and 4 had a negative. Of the 62 non-cancerous patients, 57 had a negative exhaled breath test and 5 had a positive.

They said that in this population with a lung cancer prevalence of 18 percent, positive and negative predictive values were slightly over 66 percent and approximately 92 percent, respectively.

The researchers noted that their results prove the feasibility of the concept of using the "electronic nose" to detect and manage lung cancer. However, further study is needed to understand the optimal strategies for using it in population-based screening.

American Thoracic Society Journal news tips for June 2005 (first issue)

For the complete text of articles, please see the American Thoracic Society Online Web Site at http://www.atsjournals.org.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medical ... wsid=25486
 
This is a really interesting thread...I've never come across it before and think its facinating....

I did read (and this is hardly a credible source) in one of Thomas Harris' books that people suffering schizophrenia smell of goat...I assumed it was a literary device until a friend was telling me about a lady she saw on a bus acting in a very disturbed way and who, my friend said, absolutely reeked of goat....
 
Chigrima said:
I always get this special taste in my mouth some days before I get a cold. It doesn't taste bad at all, in fact it makes me think of candy and I always rack my brain trying to work out what kind, but i never remember. :) Seems reasonable that if I can taste it, someone else can smell it.

When my sister was in veterinary school and my best friend was in medical school, they had an enlightening discussion regarding this. Mucous (ok, snot) is made of polysaccharides - like starches, which are plant polysaccharides, but different. I think they said that the sweet taste is from bacteria breaking down the polysaccharides into simple sugars.

That was the last time I invited my friend over for Christmas dinner.
 
lordshiva said:
From experience - you can tell whether someone is an undiagnosed diabetic by their breath - if it smells like fruity nail polish remover they may be suffering from Diabetic Ketoacidosis which means that they have no insulin in their blood and are about to go into a coma and possibly die (around about 2% do even with treatment).

Defintely, but the breath thing is not just DKA. Generally there's a difference (although less perceptible) for a regular ol' high blood sugar reading. I can tell a difference in the "feel" in my mouth with a reading of about 200, which is only 20-30 "points" off what is considered normal for a diabetic. (I'm a Type I, have had diabetes for about 14 years).

The boyfriend can sometimes detect a difference in my breath at about 250, which is not good, but not deathly bad either. He definitely knows what to look for in case of DKA, which I've been hospitalized for once (and that's once too much). And strangely enough, I work with another mid-20s Type I, and we can just look at each other and be able to tell if the other's blood sugar is high or low.
 
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Almost on a similar basis to the Perth woman (extensively covered by documentaries and confirmed scientific research) who is able to detect suffers of Parkinson's Disease by their smell (even years before they present with any symptoms) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-34583642

Apparently dogs are now used as disease diagnosers due to their acute senses of smell.
 
Apparently dogs are now used as disease diagnosers due to their acute senses of smell.
Joy Milne was described as being "somewhere between a human and a dog" in terms of her sense of smell, in the BBC documentary.

If a search-dog has an ability that's notionally 10,000 times better than a conventional human, and Joy is able to detect the 10 specific molecules that indicate Parkinson's, that may place her in the 1,000-2,000 better-than-average range (or even higher)

She also has the training of having been a fully-qualified nurse, and is an excellent communicator.
 
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