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Doctors Reveal What Different Illnesses Smell Like

Penn Vet Working Dog Center/ YouTube

When it comes to your diagnosis, all it could take is a really good nose. Doctors have admitted that certain illnesses give you a different smell than others.

For example, if you have diabetes your breath tends to smell like nail polish remover. People with liver disease give off a raw fish smell.

The BBC reports these findings, some of which come from Philadelphia’s Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

While humans can’t always pick up these scents there are electronic noses that can do the hard sniffing for us. What are some other scents? A bladder infection makes your urine smell like ammonia, rubella makes your sweat smell like plucked feathers, schizophrenia makes your sweat smell like vinegar and yellow fever makes your skin smell like a butcher shop.

These electronic sniffers can be just as effective as a mammogram in smelling out breast cancer. Patients have often said they noticed a different smell coming from their partner and that’s what told them that they had cancer.

What diseases smell like

Disease What to smell Aroma
Source: Alphus D. Wilson, Manuela Baietto, “Advances in Electronic-Nose Technologies Developed for Biomedical Applications”, published in , published in Sensors
 Anaerobic infection Skin, sweat Rotten apples
Bladder infection Urine Ammonia (window cleaner)
Diabetes Breath Acetone-like (nail polish remover)
Liver failure Breath Raw fish
Rubella Sweat Freshly plucked feathers
Schizophrenia Sweat Mildly acetic (vinegar)
Scrofula Body Stale beer
Typhoid Skin Freshly baked brown bread
Yellow Fever Skin Butcher’s shop



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