A-Z of clinical odours. (part one: A-M)
I decided to compile this non-exhaustive encyclopedia last week when, within the space of 30 minutes, my room had become temporarily stained by 3 very distinct odours. Please feel free (as always) to add any comments and additional suggestions. I may well add the comments into the main text to make it more complete.
A: Alcohol: When you’ve been dragged into the nearest hospital or clinic, staff can immediately smell the cause for your inability to walk, talk or urinate in the right places. A strange almost rhubarb -like, overtly sweet malodour that can strip wallpaper from 50 paces. It may be nice to have a single malt or glass of Shiraz, but when you’ve been pouring vodka and Thunderbird down your throat and it’s odour is coming out in your sweat then maybe you’ve gone a tad too far!
B: BO1: Body Odour: Affecting any member of the public/staff who decided not to wash prior to coming to clinic. Forgivable late in the day in mid summer or after a long night shift, less forgivable at 09.00 in the morning regardless of shift pattern.
BO2: Bowels Open: Regardless of its Bristol Stool Chart type, it smells! It’s always bad, but can have factors that make it worse: see “M for Malaena”.
BV/Bacterial Vaginosis: Malodourous vaginal infected discharge. See “K for Kippers”.
C: Cats urine: The smell accompanying the little dishevelled lady who never felt the need to marry or have children. The drug Parvolex has the same smell and is given to patients who have overdosed on Paracetamol (acetylcysteine). Ironically some patients take OD’s because they have split up from their loved ones and don’t want to grow old alone smelling of cats… but due to the odourous quality of Parvolex they can smell of cats before they grow old!!
D: Dirt: The general smell of the great unwashed, not a smell specifically of BO1, but just general lack of cleaning. Often associated with a faint rough brown rash that can be removed with vigorous scrubbing with soap.
E: Exudate: It may be rewarding to clean away that sloughy pus, but really did God have to make it smell so bad! This smell is amplified by “helpful” patients who have decided to self treat their ulcers by wrapping an adhesive bandage straight onto their exudating leg and letting it set into place for a week.
F: Feet: You know it’s going to be bad, several key factors give it away. Firstly the general presentation of the patient, then the condition of their socks, and then the amount of sock fluff…that’s the point you are committed to smelling their odourous feet, the nails might be black, there may be calluses, verrucas and ingrowing toenails..but it’s not what you see that stays in the room for so long that the next three patients all think you have stinky feet!!
G: Gases: See F, N & O – ha! you’ll have to wait a week!
H: Horse: OK, so not many horses come to see non- veterinarian clinicians, but the riders often do. They leave your room smelling like a combination of urine soaked straw and wet animals. Only comparable to the smell of a school boy who is playing Joseph in the nativity and nervously wets himself near the straw, when realising their are 200 parents with video cameras watching him.
I: Incense: Nothing says “I’ve been smoking dope” like the smell of sandalwood joss-sticks. Nurses and the like recognise this instantly…mostly due to hazy memories of being a student!
J: Joop:In my experience it’s the only aftershave strong enough to get me through the Friday night shift, without me wanting to puke due to all the other smells.
K: Kippers: Fish smells, some more than others – Kippers being the worst. See Bacterial Vaginosis.
L: Leather: As worn by bikers, usually smelt in the health care field when associated with big guys (and girls) sobbing. The sobbing is nothing to do with the potential fractures they’ve sustained from coming off their bike at high speed, but more because the leather smell is being caused by a nurses trauma scissors cutting through their highly expensive leather trousers.
M: Melaena: It’s a distinct smell, essentially it reminds me of cooking liver, (which is why I don’t eat liver). For those that don’t know…it’s bloody crap…no literally…blood from the bowel and probably one of the most offensive smells in health care. PLEASE DON’T NAME YOUR CHILDREN “MELAENA” (or Candida)!
Next time you can look forward to N-Z…and see how I cope with Q, X, Y and Z…oh yes….I’ve already got it sussed!