BACKGROUND:In recent years,we saw four patients with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in our clinical practices who developed a compulsive craving for certain odors including rubber tires, gasoline, Pine-Sol® (a popular household alcohol ethoxylate-based cleaning agent), and "musty odor of the basement." Such behavior resolved after treatment of IDA, and recurred in a patient whose IDA relapsed. This resembled pica, a craving to eat non-nutritive items, which is commonly associated with IDA. Because we had never heard of or read about this phenomenon, we reviewed the English medical literature and World Wide Web to determine if such experience had been previously reported.

METHODS: We searched the PubMed, Google, and Google Scholar to find publications, reports, presentations, or testimonies of individual in online blogs using a combination of search terms including "nasal, olfactory, smell, craving, iron deficiency, and anemia."

RESULTS: We found no scientific publication, report, or presentation similar to our experience in PubMed and Google Scholar. However, using Google search engine, we found several testimonies of individuals in online blog posts (mostly at and, several of which were pregnancy blogs that reported these peculiar symptoms. Individuals were reporting powerful cravings of olfaction, frequently being overtaken by a desire to smell certain odors. The types of substances for which they craved and their associated medical conditions (when reported) are summarized in the Table.

CONCLUSIONS:These preliminary findings and testimonies give suggestive evidence that a condition, entirely separate from pica, exists in certain patients suffering from IDA or during pregnancy. For this, we propose the name, desiderosmia, derived from the Latin word "desiderare" for desire and the Greek word "osme" for smell. In naming this condition, we hope to inspire further investigation, and hopefully shed some light for patients who suffer from this newly described olfactory symptom.


Reports of smell cravings and associated medical conditions found in online blogs


Reports of smell cravings and associated medical conditions found in online blogs

Close modal

No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

Sign in via your Institution