Phantosmia? Phantom smells? Anyone?

Before a migraine, I get a phantom smell that usually smells like burning rubber. It usually happens at night and only lasts a few minutes. This morning I awoke very early to a horrible, horrible chemical burning smell. It is like wires in the walls are burning and it had a mustardy smell too. It was only in my bedroom and I didn’t smell it when I went to the other room or outside. I googled this and a lot of places say this worrisome, should I get to a neurologist? Anybody else have this? I’m thinking this is going to be a doozy of a migraine, I’m already feeling shaky and like my IQ is down about 40 points and my thinking is very scattered. Is this more than a migraine? Could this be a seizure building up? I’ve never had a seizure yet, so don’t know what it feels like, but I’m scared I will have one…

I would suggest getting to a doctor and get it checked out-this doesn’t sound right & could be something going on. Take care & I wish you well!

Hi Nicole,

If you’re sure enough that it’s a phantom smell, and since it seems different from your usual episodes, I suggest giving your doctor a call. That’s what they’re there for! I bet the stuff that google turns up on this is scary, but it’s not a new type of experience for you, so I don’t think you need to panic. (Anxiety can cause that shaky, scattered feeling, too.)

I know this is probably a silly question, but did you go back in the bedroom to check if you smelled it again?


Call your doctor now! Worrying will only cause more problems.

Yes, I’ve gone back multiple times and I still smell it, I’ve sprayed air freshener, deodorizer, and lit incense, it covers it for a little while but then it comes back. I have the fans going too! I’m wondering if there is a tiny smell but my brain is turning it into something very yucky, I read that can happen too. Oh Google, you are so helpful, maybe a little TOO “helpful” to the point of turning into anxiety…

I vowed to find a new neurologist, who actually seems to know what they are doing and is not seeing patients on a conveyor belt line like my old doc, maybe this is the incentive I need. Or maybe I should see the old doc??

Forget the old doctor. Go find someone who actually see you as a person. In the meantime may I suggest an electrician…hehehe. On a more serious note…please keep us posted as to your condition.

I’ve not experienced seizures nor the phantom smell; however, I would agree with the others in their urging you to have a neurologist check it out. As far as old doc, new doc, and this episode occurring presently: call or see your current doc for this occurrence and keep looking for a GOOD neuro. doctor. Hope this resolves for you soon! Take care!

So I think it is my dog!! Every time she comes in from running around outside, she smells like burning rubber (at least that’s what it smells like to me!!). Sooo weird…

Hi Nicole, I don’t know if what u are describing as phantom smells are precursors to a migraine or some type of petit mal/tonic clonic seizure? I used to call them “spells”. I would kind of space out for a bit, have the phantom smell and also often an associated visual disturbance in my upper left quadrant( I called it “seeing sparkles”). These aura’s were only present during my “spells” and it was not dependent on where I was. They typically only lasted 5-15 minutes(the length of spell from start to finish). Following these episodes, my visual field was dramatically cut for an additional 15 minutes or so, and I would have what I would describe as a severve migraine-type headache. Usually a good nap would clear this all up:) This hasn’t happened for many, many years but I do remember this from growing up with my rather large RT side avm. Hope this helpful, as others have said…share these episodes w ur neurologist and make sure to document the time/date and length of time of each event. Maybe an increase/adjustment in ur meds can eliminate this all together? Hope the helps, take care. -GK

Hay, I would be interested to know if the smell has gone now. I would not have thought it would be a led up to a migraine if it was only smelt in the one room. I don’t know if I am making any sense. I would have thought if it was a phantom smell that the smell would be following you and you would smell it where ever you go, as I understand it, it is your brain making you believe that the smell is there. I don’t know lol I confuse myself so bad sometimes.
I do get migraines and get aura’s before but not the smells so don’t really understand that part of it.
hope you are feel great

Kia Kaha Taiki


I would tell your doctor for sure. I do get strange smells but not as much as I did when I first had brain surgery. I really would smell the burning more than anything, but again not as much as I used to. I did read where smelling burning might mean a seizure coming on or as I realized with myself it seems to be what is called partial seizures, not a full seizure but a little glitch that no one would even notice but still not to be ignored.