Worst Smells In The Hospital? There's a List For That!

I recently asked my thousands of Facebook readers to describe the worst smell in the hospital in their own words.  They did not disappoint.  The hospital setting provides the perfect opportunity to experience a crisis of unimaginable olfactory proportions.  Some people thought the smell of rotting flesh was the most intolerable smell in the hospital.  Other folks said the unmistakeable smell of melena was the worst.  Walking off an elevator onto a floor or unit and experiencing the smells of nasal suicide is a sure fire way to create interesting conversation.  Simply ask anyone who's job is stuck in the  DEFCON 4 zone what is the smell and where is it coming from and you'll be sure to get your unprofessional comments tank filled for the day.  It's not their fault though.   Their speech filters are contaminated with nasty.

What are different solutions to getting rid of these terrible odors?  Is it medical grade air freshener?  Is it expensive air filtration systems?  Is it for doctors and nurses to wear a mask or munch on peppermint?  As we say in medicine, treat the underlying cause.  The underlying cause isn't the rotting flesh or the melena.  It's that the patient is on the same floor at the same time as you are.  Stop wasting time covering up the smell with expensive gimmicks.  The quickest and easiest way to make the worst smell in the hospital go away on your shift is to transfer the patient to another floor, unit, hospital or to Heaven as quick as possible.    Whatever it takes, just make it happen if you want to maintain your sanity for the next 12 hours.

Here is the definitive internet resource of the most awful smells in the hospital, provided by my thousands of Facebook readers.  If you haven't joined the conversation yet, you are missing out on a never ending parade of sarcasm, comedy and insight.  Join Happy and his crusades today and never miss the opportunity to hear others describe nasty vaginal yeast infections again.  In the famous words of a nationally known and highly respected ER doctor,  be prepared for  post traumatic pelvic exam disorder (PTPED) when retained tampons show up at 3 am with a chief complaint of 'my Virginia hurts'.  
  • Burn victim.
  • Frumunda cheese. You know, the white gooey stuff "from under" the panus, the breast and scrotum.
  • GI bleed poop.   This was the most popular worst smell in the hospital.
  • We suggested at work the other night that Febreeze should do a nursing/hospital commercial. Like a blindfolded nurse saying "Hmm smells like a summer meadow" and then zooming out to show a drunk homeless man with a rotting leg and a GI bleed. I would buy THAT product!
  • Scrambled eggs coming out of the GI fistula in my patient's dressing after he refused to stay NPO. 
  • Abdominal fold yeast. Never do an abdominal exam blindly or without gloves. It takes days to go away.
  • Old Jevity in a feed bag is pretty rank too.
  • I'm needing some Zofran all of a sudden!
  • The air freshener used to hide the smells is WORSE than the smells! It always makes my eyes water and I start sneezing. To me, that is the worst thing ever in a work environment. It makes me miserable and it lingers forever! 
  • The smell of the stretcher from a woman who had a tampon in place for everlasting days and continued to have sex. Pity the ER doc who retrieved it (see PTPED above).  The linens were tossed in the garbage. 
  •  C diff poop.   This was the second most popular worst smell in the hospital. 
  • The smell in the med room after someone sneaks one out and leaves. 
  • The underside of any female quarter ton plus patient with weeping edema, pressure ulcers, diarrhea etc. Smells like opening the lid of a two week old dumpster in August. 
  • Patient with C Diff AND a colostomy bag that burst everywhere. I am sure that I have devolved PTSD from that incident. 
  • Incontinent hobo with melena AND trench foot. 
  • Cdiff, necrotic tissue, and rocephin smells like cat piss.
  • Old poop. It has a certain smell when someone's been backed up for days.  Also, trachs that reek.  REALLY reek. Ugh.
  • Feet of a homeless drunk men rank at the top! 
  • Dead gut.
  • The worst smell is a GI bleed from a patient with a necrotic bowel. He had a history of a Low Anterior Resection with a colostomy. 
  • G.I. bleed is even nastier than C-diff.
  • A stillborn that had crowned days before the mom came in complaining of constipation. She "didn't know" she was pregnant. Rumor has it an OR nurse passed out and the OR had to be fumigated. 
  • The stench of a pseudomonas infection of a patient's trach makes me want to hurl. 
  • I'm going say gastric lavage contents.
  • First incision into an abdomen with necrotic bowel. 
  • Cdiff, GI bleed poo, vomit.
  • Wound debridement. 
  • C diff is the only thing that can make me gag.  Pseudomonas is close however.
  • My mom has this gem to contribute: a vaginal vault full of retained tampons.
  • Gangrene. It somehow finds a place in your sinuses and takes up residence.
    • Forgot about that one. The first time I ever saw/smelled that, I was an aide, and the nurse that I was helping to change the dressing didn't warn me ahead of time. I almost passed out from the smell! 
  • Rotten crotch.  That stench always seems to stick to the walls and in your nose for too long afterwards.
  • A patient on a vent with a beard who drools, that even the best oral care can't fix. 
  • Cdiff vs GIB.
  • Our ER constantly smells like a mixture of mouth wash (the bums drink it to get drunk), B.O., stale urine & swamp feet.
  • Near the pathology lab.  Ewwww!  I never know what THAT smell is!
  • My friend had a patient that had just had sex. She complained of cramping and smelled horrible while doing the vaginal ultrasound.  Then a green gooey blob came out of her vagina.  No wonder she was cramping and smelled! 
  • GI bleed poop hands down!
  • GI bleeds. Makes the entire floor stink. And yeast in skin folds. 
  • I hate the smell of eggs on the morning breakfast today's mixed with all of the various smells coming out of patient rooms. Disgusting. 
    • I wonder why that is? Our eggs are weird also, when you open the cart and that smell hits your face. 
  • Colostomies always get me.  I nearly start heaving just thinking about it. 
  • Yea, someone would come to the ER like that and literally permeate the whole place for hours. Made my eyes water.
  • Abdominal fold cheese that's been brewing for a long long time, added to crotch rott and swamp butt. All wrapped up in soiled clothing permeated with it all. 
    • Your's is the best description of all..LOL. Forgot about crotch rott and swamp butt crack. 
  • Tunneling gas gangrene will definitely leave in impression. Stands out for me in a 40 year.career! 
  • Lower GI bleeds sometimes get me; Anaerobic abscesses are always fun; Trichomonad and bacterial vaginosis together make my eyes water.
  • Unwashed bodies with a hint of ass. 
  • Tarry stools.
  • Colostomy.  Hands down the worst. 
  • I have asked many times "Why doesn't Yankee Candle make a 'GI bleed' scent?" 
  • The urine of a patient in ESRD!! Ewwww.
  • GI bleed, c-diff and pressure ulcers.
  • Patients that have been in ICU for awhile and come to surgery. I don't know what the smell is, but it always smells the same. 
  • I'm going with C-diff and infected draining wounds. 
  • UTI urine.
  • Colostomy bags.
  • Sputum smells pretty rank to after sucking it out of a trach.
  • Dickfarts.
  • I was just saying the other day that our elevator had the most horrible, strange smell.
  • Gangrene.
  • Theres no smell like a fresh 90% burn hot out of the mercy flight.
  • Made me wish we had a spa tank in the decon room. Dunk them in and Calgon take me away.
  • I had to step away from the computer.  I CAN'T start my day this way. I've smelled all of them too. 
  • Either gangrene or burnt flesh. The smells that you can't get out of your nose.
  • I really hate the smell of people after a MVA or motorcycle accident who've been thrown from the vehicle. Its that smell of sweat, blood, dirt and gravel. It is very distinct! Usually old drunk stench and urine go with it! 
  • Ileostomy.
  • Pee pee smell, stell smell! 
  • Plus the stench from a colostomy.
  • A retained tampon!
  • Colostomy bag and sepsis.  I had to wear three masks.
  • Other than some bad cafeteria food, I say infected wound/gangrene and weight 400+ pounds can't wash backside smell.
  • Homeless feet in the summertime. 
  • We once had a guy who worked in another department who left behind the strongest stench of BO behind. He would be nowhere around, but you knew by the smell he was the last one on the elevator.
  • Uterine cancer patient with old rancid clots expressed per vagina.
  • When a patients leg is so necrotic there are maggots coming out of it.
  • Bloody leg bag urine. Gets me everytime.
  • Lower GI Bleed.  Smells like death.
  • Additionally, drunks and/or crackheads who have been locked in seclusion all night. When you open that door, you had better stand back! 
  • Any kind of poop.
  • A colon that has burst.
  • Deficated infarcted bowel. The patient died 5 min after. Only time I ever vomited in the laundry bag.
  • How about when you go to pick up a patient in the ER and the nurse hands you a cup with a cotton ball soaked in essence of peppermint oil (You know the stuff-one drop will make the entire floor smell like peppermint!) and tells you, "Put this in your truck; you'll need it." Eyes very wide, "Why????" "You'll see." OMG! I could smell the woman from 4 rooms down as I approached! She was about 500 pounds and had not bathed in WEEKS. I had to take her back to her apartment and somehow get her up 15 steps. In a wheelchair. With oxygen. Thank goodness for firemen lift assist!! 
  • GI bleed smell. In the back of the ambulance. With no ventilation! ACK! 
  • Been in this 10 yrs.  The one I can't stand worse than C Diff, GI bleed or a pressure ulcer.  I had a patient come in that was ESRD and had not bathed in who knows how long.  So nasty funk hoohah! Needless to say she got a bath by 3 of us on admit!! It was horrible.
  • Oozing necrotic wounds.
  • Wow graphic!!! Now I remember why I didn't accept that orderly job when I got out of high school . When they mentioned the pathology lab I excused myself and went back to sniffing gasoline and exhaust fumes at the gas station! 
If you have your own worst smell experiences in the hospital, make sure to leave a comment below to help other doctors, patients and nurses gain insight into the dangers of working in a hospital.  Now, please enjoy these original Happy Hospitalist ecards.

    "You know you're a nurse if you can name that smell in two whiffs!"

    Name that smell in two whiffs nurse ecard humor photo



    "I worked an entire shift in the ER without smelling something nasty.  Said no ER nurse ever."

    Worked an entire shift in the ER without smelling something nasty nurse ecard humor photo



    "I asked Santa for a melena free Christmas day shift." Let's see if the fat ass can pull through."

    I asked Santa for a melena free Christmas day shift.  Let's see if the fat ass can pull through nurse ecard humor photo f3cb5957-ad50-4af0-8adb-46e220c2e787_zpsfe93cda4.jpg Medical Humor Store Banner

    To view this ecard product selection, turn off the “content filter” function on the left hand side of the Zazzle store linked above.



    This post contains humor that may only be understood be some healthcare professionals. Read at your own risk.

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