Self Diagnosis

Self diagnosis can be a dangerous thing, and I can well understand doctors’ despair when patients walk into their surgery saying, ” I think I might have…..”. But read on and see what you think.

On Friday evening I couldn’t work out what the unpleasant, super-sweet, slightly  metallic smell in the sitting room was. It was nothing like I’d ever smelt before.  Husband couldn’t detect anything.  I went to bed but whatever it was followed me up the six stairs from the sitting room to the landing outside the bedroom. I was still awake at 2.30am and still overwhelmed by the horrible smell; even pillow spray didn’t help.  When I woke at around 5am the smell was still there and later when I got up and went downstairs it hit me more strongly than ever. Just as I had the previous evening, I sniffed my way around the downstairs of the house – it really was getting annoying by now, but still nothing obvious came to light.  Husband still claimed to smell nothing.

Sweet peas 2The following afternoon Husband cut second bunch of sweet peas to join the ones he’d cut the day before. “The more you pick, the more they grow,” he said. I’d heard that too so welcomed the second bunch and went to find another suitable vase. If I absolutely had to narrow it down to one favourite flower, the sweet pea would be a major contender. It looks as though, after a couple of poor years, we may once again see a great display as the plants are looking healthy and strong. I love their delicate petals and heady fragrance. I had put that first small vase on the coffee table in the sitting room and now the second one was placed on the mantelpiece and I went off to prepare the evening meal.  A little later I joined Husband in the sitting room.  Shortly after I’d sat down, the smell hit me and this time it was stronger than ever. Again he wasn’t aware of it.

So I turned to Google, never a good idea when it comes to health but I wasn’t thinking in terms of health at the time. The long list of possible reasons for phantosmia (which, I discovered, is the name for one of the diagnoses of phantom smells) makes worrying reading. Thankfully there is an alternative, and more common one – parosmia.   It appears that people with parosmia are smelling real-life smells, but they become distorted. ‘For instance, the smell of flowers could trigger a smell of chemicals instead’. Note the word ‘flowers’. Could it really be my beloved sweet peas? Is it possible that the flowers smell fine when they’re the only thing that I’m smelling (i.e. holding them close to my nose), but on reaction with other smells in the atmosphere, they somehow get distorted by the time the scent makes its way to me? I removed both vases and soon the smell had disappeared.

Further reading that it is possible to experience several parosmia concurrently makes me feel, if this is what I’m experiencing,  that I’ve been let off lightly. The advice is that if a problem continues I should see a doctor – underlying conditions and all that. But I’m hoping that it will just go away on its own, as it apparently can,  and I’m left wondering whether it’s only sweet peas that I’ll have a problem with or will it occur with other flowers too? Only one way to find out…




  1. Oh, no – what a shame. I really love sweet peas too although I’ve never been all that successful at growing them, sadly. I hope it passes soon and you can again have them in the house.


    • I’d never come across it before either, Margaret. When I was in the garden near to the sweet peas this afternoon, I was aware of something not smelling quite right. I’m going to try them again indoors later this week but I fear the problem will still be there. Very frustrating.


  2. I’m really sensitive to smell and there is a or several smell/s that trigger off a migraine, and of course I’m not sure what the smell/s is/are, as the migraine comes on quite subtly. I think that we forget how sensitive our senses actually are. But it’s good that you’ve found the likely suspect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My Giorgio perfume used to make my mum’s head really bad. Once we realised I never used it when she’d be around


  3. Well, it’s a good thing you were able to self diagnose in this instance, any way. 🙂 It must have been very disconcerting when you first smelled the unusual aroma. I am unable to detect certain aromas, like durian fruit and lavender.

    (Thank you for your very kind response to my comment on yesterday’s post about chocolate. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t have sweet peas in the house for this very reason. They are my favourite flower but must now stay outside where they grow. Catriona

    Liked by 1 person

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