What Does it Mean When a Wound Smells?


7 minutes

Essential Takeaways

A slight wound odour can be normal during healing, but a strong or foul smell could indicate infection. Signs of good wound healing include decreasing redness, swelling, and drainage, along with the formation of scar tissue.

Look out for bad smelling odours, increased redness and swelling, more pain, fevers and a general feeling of unwellness - as this can indicate infection. If you face these concerns, seek urgent medical attention.

Thanks to its powerful antibiotic properties, manuka honey is a great natural remedy to help promote wound healing with reduced odour. But if you choose to use manuka honey, make sure you’re getting the real deal.

Have you ever noticed a slight odour coming from your wound while it heals?

It's not uncommon, and in most cases, there’s nothing to worry about. However, a strong or foul smell coming from a wound can be a red flag, indicating a potential infection.

In this article, we delve into the reasons behind wound odour, how to differentiate between a normal healing process and a cause for concern, and we explore natural approaches to promote wound healing with less smell.

Keep reading to learn about:

Understanding Wound Odour

So, what causes a wound to smell? There are a few main culprits:

  • Bacterial breakdown of dead tissue: As your body heals a wound, white blood cells clean up damaged tissues and bacteria. This breakdown process can release byproducts with a faint odour.

  • Trapped drainage: If wound drainage (the fluid coming out of your wound) isn't cleaned and removed properly, it can create a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to a stronger smell.

  • Certain dressings: Some wound dressings, particularly those designed to absorb moisture, can trap odour-causing bacteria. This build-up leads to unpleasant smells, especially when the bandage is removed.

Now, let's address a common question:

Do Healthy Healing Wounds Smell?

The answer is yes, sometimes. A slight odour might be present during the healing process. This is usually a faint, almost metallic smell that shouldn't be strong or unpleasant. However, if the odour intensifies or becomes foul, it's time to pay closer attention.


When to Worry About a Smelly Wound

A strong or foul smell emanating from a wound can be a sign of infection, but it's not always the case. There are other potential causes of a smelly wound besides infection, although less common. These include:

  • Gangrene: This is the death of tissue, often caused by a lack of blood flow. Gangrene has a distinct, putrid odour.

  • Underlying medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, like diabetes, can impair wound healing and contribute to a foul fragrance.

If you suspect gangrene or have an underlying medical condition, consulting a healthcare professional is essential.

Does a Smelly Wound Mean Infection?

While a foul smell can be a symptom of an infection, other signs are often present. These include:

  • Increased redness, swelling, and pain around the wound

  • Pus drainage, which may be yellow, green, or brown

  • Fever

  • Feeling generally unwell

If you experience any of these symptoms alongside a bad smell coming from your wound, it's crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment of an infection are essential for preventing complications and healing quickly.

When To See A Doctor For Your Smelly Wound

While most wounds heal without complications, there are situations where seeking medical attention is crucial. Here are some signs that warrant a visit to your doctor:

  • Increased pain, redness, or swelling around the wound: If the pain or swelling worsens instead of improving, or if the redness spreads beyond the wound margins, it could indicate an infection or other complications.

  • Pus drainage: While some clear or slightly yellow drainage is normal during healing, thick pus, particularly if it's green, brown, or has a foul odour, suggests a potential infection.

  • Fever: A fever accompanying a wound can be a sign that your body is fighting an infection.

  • A wound that isn't healing properly: If your wound shows little to no progress in healing after several days, despite proper care, consult your doctor to rule out any underlying issues.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you experience any of these symptoms, or your gut feel tells you that something’s off, consider booking an appointment with your local doctor.


Signs of Good Wound Healing

While a slight odour might be present during the initial healing stages, it should gradually decrease as the wound progresses towards closure. Here are some key signs that your wound is healing well:

  • Decreasing redness, swelling, and pain: As your body repairs the damaged tissue, the inflammation and discomfort around the wound should subside.

  • Formation of healthy granulation tissue: This is pink, moist tissue that fills the wound bed and promotes healing.

  • Closing of the wound edges: As the healing process continues, the edges of the wound will begin to draw together and eventually close completely.

Natural Approaches to Healing Wounds With Less Odour

There are several natural approaches that can support healthy wound healing and potentially minimise the smell:

  • Proper wound cleaning and dressing: Regularly cleaning your wound with a saline solution and using appropriate dressings will help remove bacteria and prevent infection.

  • Maintaining a moist wound environment: Keeping the wound bed moist promotes healing and reduces the risk of odour-causing bacteria thriving.

You can also apply a range of natural extracts to help your wounds heal faster without the nasty smells. Our favourite option is manuka honey.

Manuka Honey: A Natural Solution for Wound Healing

Over the last 40+ years, considerable research has gone into better understanding how manuka honey helps wounds heal faster. It acts in a range of ways, with the main ones being:

  • Non-peroxide activity: The main active compound in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MGO). It is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory and offers many other health benefits. It can even destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • Hygroscopic: Honey absorbs moisture from the air, which helps to keep wounds clean and moist.

  • Low pH: Manuka honey naturally has a low pH, which makes it hard for bacteria to breed.

We often hear great feedback from customers about how our honey helped their wounds to heal. For example:

“Such an amazing honey with phenomenal healing properties, used it on a wound with fast results.” - Nalan A., Verified Buyer, UMF™ 28+ Manuka Honey

Case study: How Manuka Honey Saved Rik’s Ankle

Get the Right Manuka Honey for Wound Healing

If you decide to use manuka honey to help heal your wound, make sure to buy a genuine product that contains a high enough concentration of MGO to get the desired results.

There are plenty of inferior-grade, adulterated, or outright fake honey products sold as high-grade manuka honey. Doing your research is important to ensure that you’re getting the real deal.

To avoid buying the wrong product, make sure to:

  • Purchase from a reputable and trustworthy company.

  • Get certified manuka honey from New Zealand. No honey is allowed to be imported into NZ, and the government regulations on export are very strict, so you can be more confident that you’re buying a genuine product if it’s been produced and packaged here.

  • Look for a UMF™ graded supplier. UMF™ is the strictest honey grading system in the world, and they do independent testing to verify its authenticity - even once it reaches the shelves. You can check that a brand is certified on the UMF™ website, here

  • Go for a higher grade of manuka honey to ensure it has enough activity to heal your wound effectively. UMF™ 10+ or higher is suitable. The higher the UMF™ number, the better.

Does that sound like lots of research? There’s an easier way to get the right product for your needs… Buy our New Zealand Honey Co. manuka honey.

Here are some links to suitable products (listed from most affordable to most powerful):

Or shop our entire range, here.

Unsure which one is right for you? Take our quiz.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general knowledge and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any concerns you may have about a wound or its healing process.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.


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