Why Does My Breath Smell Like Urine?

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD on November 22, 2017Written by Ana Gotter

Overview

Bad breath can be uncomfortable, but it can be particularly frustrating to realize that your breath smells like urine.

There are a number of different causes that can lead your breath to smell like urine. Some will be temporary. Some people, for example, only experience breath that smells like urine after heavy drinking or upon waking in the morning. This typically isn’t too serious.

Children and toddlers sometimes have breath that smells strongly like urine, too. In this case, it may indicate kidney dysfunction.

Some causes of breath that smells like urine are benign, even if it doesn’t feel like it, while others are more serious and require prompt medical care.

Possible causes

Certain foods and medical conditions can cause the breath to smell like ammonia, which some think smells like urine. They range from harmless and temporary to chronic and very serious.

Diet

Certain foods and beverages can cause reactions in the body that can lead the breath to smell like urine. In many cases, this is due to a buildup of ammonia in the body that isn’t eliminated properly. Some foods and drinks can cause a surge of ammonia in the body.

Alcohol is the most prominent example. Heavy drinking can affect kidney filtration and cause the breath to smell like urine. Eating high amounts of protein can also cause this effect.

The best way to avoid this is to drink in moderation and to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis occurs when the tissues in the sinus become inflamed. This can happen as a result of

Sinusitis may come as a result of bacterial or fungal infections in the sinuses, which can cause halitosis (bad breath). For some individuals, this can cause their breath to smell like urine.

Other symptoms may include feeling pressure in the sinuses, headaches, congestion, and post nasal drip.

You can try to flush out and moisten the naval cavities using neti pots. Decongestion medications like Sudafed can help with sinus infections.

Helicobacter pylori infection

H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can affect the stomach. It can cause stomach ulcers and even stomach cancer. It’s also known to cause both sweat and breath that smells like ammonia or urine.

Some people will have H. pylori with no other symptoms, but some may experience symptoms like:

  • stomach ulcers
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • bloating
  • unintentional belching
  • abdominal pain that gets worse when your stomach is empty

To get rid of H. pylori, your doctor may prescribe you two different antibiotics at once, which can help prevent resistance to antibiotics. They’ll also likely prescribe an acid-suppressing medication to protect or heal the lining of your stomach. Some natural treatments may also help.

There isn’t much you can do to prevent H. pylori. But make sure you make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of an H. pylori infection so you can get tested and treated.

Urinary tract infections

Many people don’t realize that a urinary tract infection (UTI) can actually be the cause of their bad breath. If a UTI spreads to the kidneys and causes some sort of a kidney infection, it can lead to a buildup of waste in the body. This can cause a metallic taste and breath that smells like urine.

Other symptoms of UTIs include:

  • pain or burning when urinating
  • a constant or sudden need to urinate frequently
  • strong-smelling urine
  • pelvic pain
  • fever

Treatment often includes taking antibiotics and staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water and urinate frequently to help flush the infection from your system. There are other home remedies you can try as well.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease is a serious cause of breath that smells like urine. When the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, they aren’t able to flush waste out of the bloodstream adequately. This can cause waste to build up in the bloodstream, leading to a metallic taste in the mouth and breath that smells strongly of ammonia.

Kidney disease is very serious, and can lead to kidney failure. Other symptoms may include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • swelling in the legs, feet, and ankles
  • skin rash or itching
  • pain in the back, side, or legs

Treatment for kidney disease will first focus on treating the cause of the condition. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to control blood pressure, cholesterol, anemia, and swelling. A low-protein diet will help the kidneys do their job better.

What you can do at home

While persistent bad breath will likely rely on treating the underlying condition in order to eliminate it, there are steps you can take to reduce the smell in the meantime. These include:

  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly. You should brush and floss completely at least twice per day. Use an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash to kill bacteria in the mouth and give you minty breath.
  • Carry breath mints with you. Spearmint and cinnamon mints both have strong smells that can help cover breath that smells like urine in a pinch. Choose sugar-free breath mints for best results.
  • Scrape your tongue. This can remove the coating of bacteria on top and improve breath immediately.
  • Avoid certain foods and beverages. This includes alcohol, which can make breath smell like urine.
  • Care for your dentures properly. Also, be sure to remove them every night.
  • Chew fennel seeds or aniseeds. They have antiseptic properties and can help fight bad breath.

The takeaway

Breath that smells like urine or ammonia can be frustrating to deal with, but many of its causes are short-lived and respond well to treatment. If your breath smells like urine for more than a week and you haven’t recently changed anything in your diet, make an appointment to see your doctor to look for the underlying cause.

CMS Id: 137862