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Smelly Mucus in the Nose

author image Jill Leviticus
Smelly Mucus in the Nose
Chronic sinusitis can cause smelly nasal mucus and pain.

Smelly mucus in the nose may be a sign that you have a sinus infection, also called sinusitis. The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery reports that a history of thick drainage that's foul smelling and tasting is a symptom of chronic sinusitis. Treating your chronic sinus infection helps relieve your symptoms and stop the unpleasant odor.

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Your sinuses are located behind your eyes and under your forehead, cheekbones and the bridge of your nose. These air-filled cavities clean the air you breathe, using mucus to filter out dirt, germs and other particles. Mucus travels from the sinuses to your nose, where it exits your body. When you're sick or suffering from allergies, the sinuses swell, preventing complete drainage and causing a foul-smelling bacterial infection in some cases. If a sinus infection lasts three months or more, it may be a chronic sinus infection, according to


Other symptoms of a chronic sinus infection may include pain or pressure in the facial bones, difficulty breathing due to sinus congestion, nausea, sore throat, post-nasal drip, green or yellow mucus in the nose, cough, bad breath, fatigue and pain in the teeth, ear or upper jaw. You may notice that your sense of smell and taste is also affected if you have a chronic sinus infection.

Risk Factors

If you have allergies or a weak immune system, you may at a higher risk of developing a sinus infection. People who have a narrowing of the sinus openings, nasal polyps or a deformity of the bony partition between the two nasal passages often suffer from chronic sinus disease, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.


Doctors treat chronic sinus infections with oral antibiotics. When sinusitis has been present for several weeks or longer, treatment usually lasts for at least four weeks and can continue for up to eight or 12 weeks or longer, according to the American Rhinologic Association. Your doctor may also prescribe an oral decongestant to help thin out mucus. She may recommend that you use nasal steroid spray to relieve swelling in nasal passages and saline spray to keep nasal passages moist. Over-the-counter medications can help relieve pain due to sinusitis.


Surgery is only recommended if you have severe chronic sinusitis that isn’t helped by other treatments. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if you have a polyp that blocks your nasal passages. Doctors use functional endoscopic sinus surgery, or FESS, to perform sinus surgery, During the FESS procedure, your doctor uses a small telescope inserted into one of your nostrils to see and remove polyps and diseased tissue and clear your sinus passages.

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