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Okay, first off, I do not suffer from olfactory or any other type of hallucinations.

I just came down with a cold last week, and this afternoon I had the same experience I had a number of years ago, also during the time of a cold. Today, when I opened the door of the balcony to shoo a pigeon away, my lungs took in one gulp of a horrible smelling chemical that I could not identify - a cross between chlorine, ammonia and something else I can't identify. It took my breath away. When I left the apartment shortly thereafter to run an errand, the smell was overpowering in the hallway and outdoors, even at my destination, which was miles away. I had to put my hand over my nose and mouth. Of course, everyone was acting quite normally and the few people I ventured to ask didn't smell anything. When I got home I eventually recovered and called a tele health number. The nurse, at least, believed me and did not think I was crazy. She actually suggested the paramedics but I said I would go to Emergency once I got mom settled. Which I didn't, but I am definitely going to follow up. I don't know if I'm developing some kind of asthma from environmental triggers or if my body is producing its own chemicals that are interacting with those outside because of my cold. I am convinced there's a logical explanation to this, lol.

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Globetrotter, is there any way to determine what other substances could cause the spasms so you can avoid them as much as possible? Something like the skin tests for allergies?

I thought that asthma was in fact latent, silent until it was triggered by certain substances.

You've helped me, though, as I've been working on finding out what triggers some breathing issues for me. The fact that you returned to normal so the issue wasn't asthma is a help in my own sleuthing efforts.

What did your doctor suggest doing if this happens again? I'm wondering also if there are doctors who specialize in environmental health. If not, I think it could be a specialty; there are enough toxins in the environment, that's for sure.

But I'm glad you're feeling better - that's the best news of all.
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Well I went to my doctor yesterday evening and he told me that I what I experienced was a bronchial spasm in response to exposure of a chemical to which I was sensitized (thus the reason why nobody else smelled it), and asked if I had any history of asthma, which I don't. He asked me did my breathing return to normal after the attack and I said yes (I stayed in all Sunday and was able to go back to work on Monday), so he said it wasn't asthma. But how would I know? Isn't there a type of latent asthma where you don't have the attacks but your breathing, particularly inhalation, is inefficient? However, it is probably environmental illness which I had for a number of years.
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Interesting, Sendme2help, although for me it happened when opening the door to the balcony, not driving. I spent thousands of dollars on driving lessons and didn't make it to the road test (once I failed and had to return to the centre just after I started out, the other time I didn't even go for it. Too dangerous for me and others because of my visual spatial/perceptional/reaction time issues. I'll have to hire a chauffeur like Max on Heart to Heart.

I stayed in on Sunday and was able to go to work on Monday, but I have an appointment with my g.p. this evening. I would like to get some breathing tests done to make sure nothing is "afoot".
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Looking up olfactory hallucinations during a full moon, NOT! lol.
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Ok, all the pot smokers and meth cookers in my area-when having a cold, it just smelled different, that could be it, since it was at the door, and for Globetrotter, it was somewhere while driving.
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Over the years I've tried different things at home to help me with my smell scense. Scented candles at first but found after a while I end up with a smooty residue on everything, even when using soy candles with leadless wicks. Lately it's been thoses scented wax cubes - melted with light bulbs instead of candles. They work at first but fade quickly. Plus I have vaulted ceilings in the entire house, except the bathroom - so I have to use three of these wax melting thingies to get the scents to be strong enough. The latest thing I am interested in trying are those aromatherapy defusers. I was looking at the flameless kinds - there are ones that work with ultrasound and ones called nebulizing defusers - not sure how those work but my research seems to indicate nebulizers put out the strongest scent. Has anyone used either of these machines? Neither are cheap so I'm hoping for some recommendations before I plunk out semi-big bucks for something that doesn't do the job. Anyone? Sorry Globetrotter, not trying to hijack your thread - maybe something like this could help you too!
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Globetrotter, mint is wonderful for inhalation - just the fragrance of it (as well as cinnamon) improve my mood. Lemon is another great fragrance. During gardening seasons I'll go outside and pick some lemon balm, bring it inside and rub the leaves periodically.

I also like basil, but it's more of a heady fragrance than mint or lemon. Lavender is another.

And of course, in season, there's nothing to beat the fragrance of peonies and old fashioned (especially some of the David Austin) roses.
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Rainmom, that's not crazy, odours get stuck in my nose for a long time too. Tar just about renders me unconscious too, and diesel! I believe you and I have almost psychic ability when it comes to sense of smell. A couple of friends helped me paint an apartment one day a long time ago. We brought one of those desk lamps with the bendable coil that you could attach to the desk. Well of course the smell of paint made me sick, but in the midst of that I started smelling something burning. The others didn't. We looked around and, sure enough, the heat from the lamp was warping the wood from the desk.

Interesting how our bodies respond differently from the trigger: with me its respiratory and brain fog/confusion; with you its a migraine - how horrible! I hope when I go to heaven it will be scent-free and there will be no burning of wood!
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Sorry, SendmetoHelp, I've been using this strategy for memory retention so I can respond to posts easier; I forgot to delete your comments.
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by-product of the metabolism of the illness no signs of infection ake any medication

SendmetoHelp, it sounds like we have the same experience. Isn't that elusive origin enough to drive you crazy? We should report it to our doctors; I bet there are many more people out there going through and the health profession is clueless. I'm going to get myself checked today.

Pre-existing toxins in the sinuses or brain - very interesting theory, although I, like you, show no signs of infection, yet anyway. However, I am exposed to a multitude of toxic chemicals five days a week combined with household allergens/toxins, so they must have accumulated to some extent in my system.

Now this by-product of the metabolism of the illness, like acidosis and what not, is I believe spot on and I wondered the same thing, particularly if its an ammonia type chemical smell that cannot be identified from any source. It's similar to - and I don't know if you have had the same experience - jumping into the pool and suddenly getting a burning and smell of smoke in your nose. I get that when I change positions during yoga exercises sometimes. That's probably some type of ammonia base. I think are body gasses are out of whack and when they come into contact with another chemical in the environment we get a reaction. This would be an excellent research study for the medical scientists, better than some of the drivel that comes out now.
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GardenArtist, I like the smell of mint. On rare occasions I will buy mint tea, boil the kettle, pour the water in a large bowl, put the tea in the bowl, cover my head and breathe in the steam. Oddly, when odours hit from the neighbouring apartments I spray vinegar, but I can only take so much of that smell because it's acidic. I used to use mints when the wood burning smoke got to me but I think that might have been a contributing factor in getting cavities so I haven't had one yet; maybe I should just say to hell with it if I can breathe better.
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Have any of you tried a neti pot for these issues?
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Hit post by mistake - anyhow - I find something good to smell, stick my nose in it and breath with my nose and mouth alternating. This will generally cleans my nose. Maybe something like what happens to me, happened to you with the bird poop.
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Globetrotter - I hope I don't sound crazy. I am very smell sensitive. I smell stuff that no one else can smell. Plus, there is a huge variety of stuff that upon smelling gives me a a huge, migraine type headache. The first thing that comes to mind as an example is tar trucks. When driving I can smell one loooong before seeing one. Okay - for thr crazy part: when I smell something like that, the smell gets stuck in my nose. Long after the thing that smelled is gone, I can still smell it - for hours and hours! This never happens with nice smelling things, just bad ones. The only thing that I can do that helps knock out the bad smell is to find something that is plesant, yet stronh
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That is the answer right there, Globetrotter, you said it yourself, you gave up chocolate!
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Agreeing with Garden Artist here, since following her advice got my husband well.
I too had the chlorine odor affect me during my cold/flu, could not find it's origin though. It was right there when I opened the door. Repeated for about 2-3 days.

Do you think, and is it possible that the toxins were already in our sinus or brains and just let loose or drained with the runny nose? lol, not too scientific.

The smell came from a by-product of the metabolism of the illness.?? Like when a diabetic gets ketoacidosis? Or someone with liver disease has an acid odor? Or our sinuses became a petri-dish full of smelly germs? Except I had no signs of infection like colorful yellow or green discharge from nose or throat.

And lastly, take any medication you took, dissolve it in a bit of water, and smell that. Was that it? Were you drinking any 7 up?

I am at a loss wondering now, but am just so glad it is gone now.
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Globetrotter, I was wondering if some alternate fragrances might help. When I'm congested, I inhale the vapors from chicken soup or honey lemon tea. Eucalyptus oil helps as well, but not as much as the warm fluids.

Not only do the warmth and fragrance help to clear my nasal passages, but they leave a nice fragrance. I don't know how others may react though if they speak to me and my nose smells like chicken soup.
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Thanks, JessieBelle; the sense of smell is mysterious (how is that for alliteration). Interesting that it is not included in a list of flu/cold symptoms. Now at the other end of the spectrum, this is really good news for me because research claims that poor sense of smell is associated with development of Alzheimer's Disease.
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Might just be a virus that infected your olfactory area like the flu does. Sure is annoying. It makes you so sensitive to certain odors. An otherwise undetectable bit of a chemical can launch the full smell perversion when I have it. I hope the infection clears fast, though the smell may haunt you for a while longer.
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Lol, I gave up chocolate during lent two years ago, but still haven't lost belly fat! Then I gave up fruit bottom yoghurt in the last month or two when I ended up with two cavities; that didn't do anything for my middle age spread. But if I have the 'flu it's the tamest one I've felt, because there was just the dry cough for a week, now it's in my nasal passages. My eyes do feel a little droopy though.
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Jessie makes a good point as well. Flu odors can be overpowering, and a person is a lot sicker with the flu than with a cold, so there's more opportunity for odor interaction. Perhaps you're on the verge of contracting a flu virus.

All this talk of odor is making me want to find some chocolate to sniff and dispel the thoughts of the other topics we're discussing!

Globetrotter, maybe that's what you need - chocolate is a cure all, you know!
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I'm wondering if the conservation area administers any kind of antibiotics to the chickadees - they seem very tame, so that might be possible. Birds can carry disease, as we know.

After reading your post about the birds, geese and nuclear plant, I think I would in fact see a doctor fairly quickly, even if the plant hasn't had a meltdown or leak.

Maybe a pulmonologist? That would at least rule out any kind of respiratory infection.
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StaceyB, how intriguing, mom actually went out on the balcony earlier to day to clean of some pigeon excrement. But I didn't know about the ammonia smell. That's also fascinating in light of the fact that a couple of weeks ago a friend took me to a conservation area where the chickadees fed bird seed out of my hand. I think that's where I got the cold because I kept taking off my gloves to take pictures despite the chill. There were a lot of geese there, too. The chicadee experience was wonderful; I'd never had a bird perch on my hand before. I'm wondering if there is a connection between the birds, cold and sensitivity/aversion to chemical smells - my version of the "avian flu". Oh, and there were turtle doves; I took a picture of one on the ground; he was droopy, lying down, just about asleep. I wonder if it was ill. This was a town in which there was a nuclear plant, albeit quite further away.

All the more reason to check in with my doctor.
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Globetrotter, thanks for the response and clarification. I would in fact raise the issue with the Ministry. Maybe a few tv stations too!

Are there any maps of environmental hazards for your area? I was wondering about the gas station, especially pollution from leaded gas from years ago. When I worked in commercial real estate development, environmental assessments were always done by the client for development of potential sites. Sometimes it was revealed that there had been leaks of leaded gas from decades ago. The gas stations had closed down, but the sites hadn't been cleaned up. Or other gas stations were rebuilt on the same site w/o remediation of lead leakage and ground contamination.

I take it you're in an apartment? Could you complain to the management? It might not do anything, but at least you'd be on record of attempting to get someone to address the situation.

This whole situation bothers me because it's going to affect your health in the long run.
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Globetrotter, are you sure you don't have the flu? I get a terrible smell perversion when I have the flu. It is a most unpleasant smell that I can't describe. I get it when I run across certain smells -- stale cigarette odor will trigger it, as will other organic smells. I can walk by a door or a car where someone has been smoking and get the smell. Certain food smells can trigger it. The smell perversion lasts for a week or two after I'm feeling better.

Sometimes when I get a cold I get a bit of the same smell perversion, which always makes me wonder if I really have the flu. I really dislike the troubling smell.
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Garden Artist, thank you for your insights. You are correct, I am not a smoker and never did smoke. The chemical discharges into the air were the first thing I thought of, too. I believe there was a higher than acceptable level, and today was an abnormally warm, windy day (11C). It's funny, when I moved here from my home province and visited the lake, I could always detect a chemical smell. Today it was like an exponential degree of that chemical. When these symptoms occurred a number of years ago, one of the pharmacists at the drug store suggested that the city was irrigating/cleaning the underground pipes; however, today there were no city crews or vacuum trucks.

In terms of factories, there are pockets of industrial parks and quite a lot of traffic; I live on a busy street with a lot of trucks and noise and a gas station right at the corner, which I can smell in my apartment and hallway more often than not. I have my air purifier on right now - turbo setting, but it's so noisy. Interestingly enough, the city councillor news letter mentioned the results of a meeting to deal with complaints of the smell from the Lush manufacturer - quite dreadful, I can smell it from miles away. However, that's not what I smelled today. I think I will write to the Ministry of Environment or Air Quality Control or whatever the relevant department to report my reaction so they can investigate any chemical leaks or excessive emissions.

I would dearly love to wear a mask when I'm working - between the wood burning smoke that burns my nose and throat, and the exhaust of the vehicles - but then apart from the looks I'd get from mothers, children and motorists, I wouldn't be able to blow my whistle, lol. However, I have seriously thought of asking permission from my supervisor to do so, but I don't want to risk losing my job.
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Stacey makes a good point; your olfactory senses are probably more sensitive and vulnerable when you're ill. The fact that a pigeon was in the area is a good clue.

Well done, Stacey! You get the Sherlock Hat of the Day!
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When your nose is raw inside from your cold, its more sensitive to the amonia smells, and you may need an exterminator.
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I think there may be a pidgin nest near your doorway, or ip in the eve's. The feces from the pigeons puts out an amonia like chemical odor which you may be reacting to. Look around for the nest.
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You may have some nominal sensitivity to certain chemicals which is heightened when you have a cold. Chemical sensitivity isn't unusual, nor do I think that development of it later in life is unusual. That happened to me.

I think noses wear out as well as other body parts.

I assume you don't smoke?

There's also the possibility of increased chemical discharge into the air, despite pollution regulations, which might be at a level to cause the reaction you experienced.

Are there any factories, plants, or other commercial activities releasing discharges into the air in your area? What's the level of traffic in your area, especially during certain times of the day such as rush hour?

I would treat this as serious and get a respirator, one of the heavy duty ones worn when workers are exposed to chemicals. I have one, and use one, but it's not easy and requires some acclimation.
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