Why do I sometimes smell ammonia when I bend over?
January 15, 2006 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Why do I sometimes smell ammonia when I bend over?

It doesn't happen often--maybe every couple of months--but occasionally when I bend over, I am overwhelmed by an extremely intense smell of ammonia. For example, today I bent over to pick up something off the floor and I had to straighten up immediately because the ammonia fragrance was so intense and painful (in the same way it kinda hurts to smell ammonia in a bottle). There's no ammonia around anywhere, and this has happened for years while I have lived in many different places. Googling has only turned up info about some people whose sweat smells like ammonia, but that's not the case here; this seems to come from the back of my nose. Never had any kind of sinus surgery, either.

It's infrequent enough that I never remember to ask my doctor about it. But it seems strange to me and I've never heard anyone else describe it.
posted by lilybeane to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Last year, I smelled bleach inside my head, and it turned out to be a sinus infection. Anecdotal *and* a different cleaning solution, but maybe you should see a doc?
posted by headspace at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2006

I sometimes get an ammonia smell but only when I have a sinus infection. Maybe it's related to pressure in the sinuses, which could be why you're getting it when you bend over.
posted by web-goddess at 12:36 PM on January 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

You aren't near the catbox, are you?
posted by found missing at 12:48 PM on January 15, 2006

I smell ammonia after I exercise. I'm pretty sure it means that I have a horrible disease, maybe diabetes or liver failure.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2006

unknowncommand - you're smelling the results of metabolizing protein (urea etc). you might look into training that improves glycogen reserves.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2006

I smell that sort of thing quite often and wondered too.

I've also experienced strong acidic smells when I have strong emotions. I always figured it was some sort of messed up senses in the brain.
posted by wackybrit at 1:48 PM on January 15, 2006

I always smell something funny when I get hit in the head really hard... If it's hard enough to see stars, I'll smell something too. I always thought it was adrenaline somehow?
posted by FortyT-wo at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2006

thanks andrew cooke! i'll look into it. that sounds like much more fun than an early grave.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:19 PM on January 15, 2006

FortyTwo - I get the same thing...only as a taste. I taste metal if I bang my head really hard.
posted by filmgeek at 3:23 PM on January 15, 2006

Some diseases (e.g. kidney failures, maybe diabetes?) can cause an ammonia body odor, but if you're the only one smelling it, it sounds more likely it's the 'messed up senses'. I'm having a sinus infection right now so you'll be the first to hear if I smell something suspicious. IANAD
posted by Psychnic at 4:20 PM on January 15, 2006

Diet related body odour? Notice any connection with foodstuffs around the times?
posted by DrtyBlvd at 6:01 PM on January 15, 2006

FortyT-wo, me too. It smells like ozone and tastes like copper, or like when you put your tongue on both prongs of a 9volt battery.
Long story
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:31 PM on January 15, 2006

Sounds like some sort of hallucination. Maybe brought on by a sudden bloodpresure change in the brain, due to bending over?

I don't think adrenaline can cause hallucinations, but being hit in the head certainly can.
posted by Paris Hilton at 7:48 PM on January 15, 2006

not to worry you or anything, but it could be a brain tumor. Sorry, I tend toward the hypocondriac-ical at times. ;)
posted by Zendogg at 7:57 PM on January 15, 2006

I get that too - metallic sort of taste, feeling. It occurs after bonks on the head, bending over, that sort of thing. I'm perfectly healthy, I always thought. So just adding to the people that it happens to, and I don't think I'm dying. I always assumed it happened to everyone.
posted by miles1972 at 8:39 PM on January 15, 2006

Fascinating... for a moment I felt that my theory that I am the only human on a planet dominated by robots was vindicated - but then I found this:

Your body uses amino acids for energy every day. There is no way to avoid this. Your body constantly goes into catabolic (tissue breakdown) and anabolic (tissue building) phases. When you accumulate mass (lean or fat), your anabolic phases exceed your catabolic phases, but you still experience both phases. When your body uses an amino acid for energy, it must convert the amino acid to a useable form of energy.

It does this by stripping the nitrogen atom off of the molecule. The skeleton molecule that is left behind is then further converted into glucose and used as fuel. In order to get rid of the excess nitrogen, your body typically processes the nitrogen in your kidneys and forms urea, CO(NH2)2 - basically, a carbon dioxide molecule bound to nitrogen and hydrogen. Urea is then excreted in the urine. If your kidneys cannot handle the load of nitrogen, then the nitrogen will be excreted as ammonia in your sweat.
One other factor to consider is water intake. The methods used for getting rid of excess ammonia, such as urine and sweat, all require water as a transport mechanism.

If you are not getting adequate fluid, then the solution (ammonia + water) will not be diluted. Therefore, water plays a definite role. If you are not drinking enough fluids to have at least one or two clear urinations every day, you should drink more.

Based on this explanation, it is clear that your sweat will smell like ammonia only if an excessive amount of amino acids are being used for energy, or you are not receiving adequate water. This helps us find a solution to the problem.

More here
posted by strawberryviagra at 2:06 AM on January 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

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