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Why Does My Wound Smell

By Max. D Gray. Updated: June 26, 2017
Why Does My Wound Smell

The human body is an amazing thing and its ability to heal itself is one of its most extraordinary facets. When we suffer a wound, whether from an abrasion, trauma or disease, we want to nurture it through the healing process as best we can. This is because, if we don't, the wound may not heal properly or even cause life threatening infection. As even small wounds can become infected, noticing an odor coming from the wound site or if we smell a bad smell from a wound should be attended to. It won't always be cause for concern, but as oneHOWTO answers why does my wound smell?, we will find out what we need to do a bad odor occurs.

Is it normal for my wound to smell bad?

First, remember that not all wounds smell bad, instead it is common for injuries not to give off any odor at all. Whether it's an injury from trauma or a blow, a wound or scar from surgery, a wound with stitches or whatever type of wound, it shouldn't smell bad. If you do smell a foul odor, also known as malodor, it might not be coming from the wound. If the bandage is not fresh, they can develop a bad smell over time. Keeping a fresh bandage is imperative to stave off infection. If the wound is someone else's, bear in mind environmental smells in the room as well as body odor or incontinence of the person with the wound.

A key known as the "Odor Assessment Scoring Tool" (Haugton and Young, 1995) has been created to identify wound odor and help in the course of treatment:

  • Strong: Odor is evident when entering a room from 6-10 feet away with the dressing intact
  • Moderate: Odor is evident when entering a room from 6-10 feet away with the dressing removed
  • Slight: Odor is evident at close proximity to the patient when dressing is removed
  • No odor: No odor is present even at close proximity to the patient with the dressing removed

This is a key which is used by health professionals to determine whether or not malodor from a wound is concerning. Of course, if this is your own wound, then you will not be able to use this tool without the aid of someone else. If you have any concern over smell from a wound or signs of possible infection, you should seek advice from a doctor.

Why Does My Wound Smell - Is it normal for my wound to smell bad?

Signs of infection with a bad smelling wound

The fact that a wound smells bad is a sign that something might be wrong. Most likely it is an infected wound or one which has not healed properly. Therefore, it will probably have some discharge such as pus, your wound may turn white due to it and give off an unpleasant odor. At the same time, this will stop it from scarring properly and completely healing.

Open wounds may have a strange smell from the drainage produced by these. If your wound is healing properly and you don't notice any red areas around the wound and do not notice any pain it probably doesn't mean anything. Rotting or putrid smell can be a reason to visit your doctor though. Make sure you know what to do if your wound reopens so you can treat it accordingly.

Besides the smell, there are other clear symptoms that there is an infection in the wound; therefore, we recommend you read our articles:

Why Does My Wound Smell - Signs of infection with a bad smelling wound

Etiology - causes of wound odor

As with many medical conditions, the causes of wound odor are not completely understood. It is thought, however, that a process of anaerobic bacteria growth can lead to the foul smell of a wound. Anaerobic bacteria are bacteria which do not require oxygen to grow and replicate. This means that even if the wound is covered by a bandage or dressing, if it is infected by anaerobic bacteria they can still thrive. Possible causes of anaerobic bacteria growth may include exposure of a wound to the bacteria from a foreign body, a lack of blood flow to the wound area or tissue necrosis. If this is the case, you should certainly seek the advice of a doctor as it may require treatment.

Tissue necrosis, otherwise known as tissue degredation, leads to the production of certain chemical compounds called diamines. These can include cadaverine and putrescine, both known as aromatic diamines. Not aromatic like a nice potpourri, but quite unpleasant aromas. You might be able to tell by the names. Cadaverine comes from the breakdown of animal tissue after it dies (the tissue not the animal). This includes the word cadaver, another word for corpse. Putrescine is a similar chemical related to the word putrefaction, the fifth stage of death before decomposition and skeletonization. These chemicals are toxic and can be very bad for the individual with a foul smelling wound. You will need to start the appropriate treatment to eliminate the bacterial infection in the wound which stinks and fix the problem while preventing possible complications.

Why Does My Wound Smell - Etiology - causes of wound odor

What does my wound smell like?

As chemicals like cadaverine and putrescine have a putrid smell, you should be able to tell a foul smelling wound has occurred by this. Putrid is a smell of its own. If you have ever been near a compost heap or walked past a rotting animal corpse in the countryside, you will know what this smell is.

However, just like come stages of a compost, the wound smell can also be quite sickly sweet. Not sweet as in like a freshly baked, but a sickly sweet wound smell has a saccharine smell which can be nauseating. The pungent odor of a wound can also smell like other food products such as an overripe cheese or even a fishy smell. Other smells include ammonia from certain bacteria like proteus bacteria.

If you find that your wound smells bad it will be crucial to go directly and quickly to your doctor so that they can examine it to determine the most appropriate measures to cure it. Remember that normally wounds shouldn't have any odour, so if they smell bad sign it's a sign of infection and you will have to treat it.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Wound Smell, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

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