Normal Odor of Urine

By Elise Moore

Changes in urine odor is a common source of anxiety because of its possible indication of medical conditions. It is important to know when urine odor is normal and what variations can mean. Although a variation is usually no cause for concern, in some cases consulting a physician is recommended.

Normal Odor

According to Dr. Kristie Leong in a June 5, 2009, article in the online health site HealthMad, urine shouldn't have an odor in an otherwise healthy person who is well-hydrated from drinking plenty of water. However, some variation does exist for normal urine odor. But even within that variation, it usually does not have a strong smell. Normal urine is also straw-yellow in color. A detectable urine odor indicates different conditions, depending on the characteristics of the odor and accompanying signs.

What It Indicates

A strong ammonia smell to urine often indicates simple dehydration. When you do not replace the fluids lost by sweating during exercise, urine becomes concentrated, as Leong explains in her article. Whereas normal urine is straw-colored, concentrated urine has a dark yellow color. Solve the problem by drinking more water and prevent it by adequately hydrating during exercise. Other strong urine smells are caused by certain foods, especially asparagus, or by medications or vitamins. These changes in odor are temporary.

Causes for Concern

In uncontrolled diabetes, urine has a sweet odor. Musty-smelling urine could indicate thyroid disease. Sweet-smelling or musty-smelling urine can also indicate metabolic disorders. A burned caramel smell to urine is caused by an inherited maple syrup urine disease that is rare and life-threatening.

Other Indications

Besides dehydration, strong ammonia smell to the urine can also indicate bacterial infection, which is more common in women than men. However, urinary tract infection in men can indicate an underlying medical problem, according to Leong. With a urinary tract infection, the urine is foul-smelling and can also appear cloudy or bloody. If you suspect that you have a urinary tract infection, consult your doctor, who can do a lab test for infection with a urine sample.


According to Leong, a common cause of vaginal infection, bacterial vaginosis, causes a fishy smell to emanate from the vagina that can be mistaken for a strong urine odor. However, accompanying symptoms such as vaginal itching and burning should inform you of whether you have a vaginal infection.


While normal urine odor varies somewhat and strong-smelling urine can be temporary and be caused by food, medication or dehydration, consult your physician if you have any questions or worries, especially if the change in your urine odor corresponds to a symptom of a medical condition.

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