Natural Baby Life logo (480 x 130)
Craving the Smell of Rubbing Alcohol During Pregnancy (Is It Safe?)

Craving the Smell of Rubbing Alcohol During Pregnancy (Is It Safe?)

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain links to recommended products or services in which we may receive a commission if you make a purchase.

During pregnancy, you will have weird cravings that range from the type of foods that you don’t typically eat to objects that are not made for consumption. One of the unexpected cravings that you might have is for the smell of rubbing alcohol. 

Craving the smell of alcohol during pregnancy is normal and can be linked to desiderosmia. This condition is may be linked to an iron deficiency in pregnant women. Smelling rubbing alcohol is safe, as long as you don’t have prolonged exposure to it. The smell of rubbing alcohol can also help soothe morning sickness and nausea. 

Read along as we dissect the reasons why you are craving the smell of rubbing alcohol during pregnancy and what to do about it. 

Is it normal to crave smells during pregnancy?

Everyone knows that a pregnant woman will experience food cravings during pregnancy, but is it normal to crave smells as well?

Craving smells is normal during pregnancy and is considered a form of pica which is linked to iron deficiency. When you have an urge to smell rubbing alcohol specifically, you can do so, but make sure that you are only doing it occasionally.

Pica is more prevalent in children and is present in approximately 10-30% of children. Pregnant women can also exhibit symptoms of pica but in a lesser percentage compared to children.

Cravings, in general, will affect 68% of pregnant women and the types of cravings vary wildly. Specific cravings can be attributed to hormonal changes and the fact that your body is telling you that you are deficient in a specific mineral or nutrient.

Because of hormonal changes that can affect mood swings and emotional levels, cravings that pregnant women have are a way of seeking comfort. Craving for specific smells can bring comfort and calm to pregnant women which is why it is pretty common to have. 

What is pica during pregnancy?

Pica is craving or eating things that are not food, and is classified as an eating disorder.

There are not enough studies regarding pica but it is believed to be tied to your body having something that is out of balance. Another common belief is that it is directly connected to anemia and often occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is also possible that your body might be craving a nutrient that it is missing. Pica is linked to deficiencies in iron or B vitamins which are both important for a healthy pregnancy. 

Pica is not harmful but it is important to determine the underlying causes of why it is happening to make sure your pregnancy is healthy. If you think you are having symptoms of pica, talk to your doctor so that you can get further guidance.

Craving the smell of rubbing alcohol falls loosely under this category because rubbing alcohol is not food and is not made for human consumption. Craving for this particular smell is safe, and it’s okay to give in once in a while, just make sure that you are not doing it often which can make you dizzy or lightheaded.

What is desiderosmia during pregnancy?

Craving the smell of rubbing alcohol during pregnancy can also be linked to a lesser-known condition known as desiderosmia.

The main difference between pica and desiderosmia is that pica will give you the urge to eat something but desiderosmia will make you crave specific smells. Like pica, desiderosmia is linked to iron deficiency. Like pica, there are no formal scientific studies about desiderosmia and it is also thought of as a sign of iron deficiency in pregnant women. 

These two conditions can happen at the same time and are usually connected but that doesn’t necessarily mean that these two occur together all the time. You can have pica and not have desiderosmia and vice versa.

The reason for this is that patients with iron deficiency anemia often develop a compulsive craving for non-food objects. According to the American Journal of Hematology, there are studies of anemic patients who after treatment of iron, stop having pica or desiderosmia symptoms altogether.

Is smelling rubbing alcohol bad during pregnancy?

Craving the smell of rubbing alcohol is considered normal and can be attributed to iron deficiency especially in pregnant women. If you are experiencing this strong craving, you might be wondering if it is harmful to your baby to some extent if you smell rubbing alcohol. 

Generally speaking, occasional inhalation of rubbing alcohol is harmless but not recommended if the exposure is prolonged especially for pregnant women.

Frequent exposure to solvents including alcohol can be detrimental to pregnant women and their babies. It can lead to miscarriage, slow growth in the womb, premature births, and birth defects. 

What does sniffing alcohol do to you?

If you are pregnant there will be instances where you will crave weird smells and tastes, and this includes the smell of rubbing alcohol. Smelling rubbing alcohol occasionally is safe, but prolonged exposure is not recommended because of the adverse effects that it will have on you.

If you are inhaling large amounts of rubbing alcohol, it can cause nausea, vomiting, throat irritations, and even difficulty breathing. 

What about smelling rubbing alcohol for nausea while pregnant?

Rubbing alcohol in a way provides a sense of comfort and cleanliness to pregnant women which is why they crave this smell sometimes.

If you have this craving, you can give in to it and occasionally smell rubbing alcohol because there are studies that show that smelling alcohol can help ease nausea and morning sickness.

Morning sickness and nausea are common symptoms of pregnancy and can be bothersome especially in the first trimester. There are a lot of homemade tools that you can use to help with nausea and this includes citrus fruits, ginger, and rubbing alcohol. 

According to Science Daily, a study of nauseated patients in the emergency room who sniffed pads saturated with isopropyl alcohol were twice as likely to get relief compared to patients who sniffed pads saturated with saline solution. 

Nausea in pregnancy is often triggered by certain smells and since the smell of rubbing alcohol is so strong, it masks the smells that make you nauseated and therefore makes you less likely to feel it. 

What about smelling hand sanitizer while pregnant?

Other than rubbing alcohol, another common smell craving for pregnant women is the smell of hand sanitizer.

This is also considered normal as long as you are doing it occasionally and not having prolonged exposure to the sanitizer. 

There are studies out there that point out that hand sanitizers that contain triclosan might have harmful effects on pregnant women and their babies. In the journal Environmental Research, triclosan was found to reduce thyroid hormones that are beneficial for fetal development and growth. Because of this, it is recommended to choose hand sanitizer without triclosan. 

Tips to avoid smelling or craving rubbing alcohol while pregnant

If you are having a strong craving for the smell of rubbing alcohol but are unsure of the effects that it will have on you and your baby, you may be looking for a substitute for the scent.

Alternatives to smelling rubbing alcohol include:

  • Essential oils – Depending on what you need to feel (calm, more energy, or help with sleep), there are essential oils that can help you achieve this mood that are not harmful to you or your baby. 
  • Vinegar – Like rubbing alcohol, vinegar has a strong smell, but it is a safer choice.
  • Alcohol wipes – It is a less concentrated version which means that it will have a similar smell but is a safer option. 
Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!

Join our community to get answers to common parenting questions, guides, deals from our partners and much more!