Urine odor

A test that assesses urine odor.

How the test is performed

Collect a “clean-catch” (midstream) urine sample. To obtain a clean-catch sample, men or boys should wipe clean the head of the penis. Women or girls need to wash the area between the lips of the vagina with soapy water and rinse well. As you start to urinate, allow a small amount to fall into the toilet bowl (this clears the urethra of contaminants). Then, in a clean container, catch about 1 to 2 ounces of urine and remove the container from the urine stream. Give the container to the health care provider or assistant.

For infants:
Thoroughly wash the area around the urethra. Open a Urine collection bag (a plastic bag with an adhesive paper on one end), and place it on your infant. For males, the entire penis can be placed in the bag and the adhesive attached to the skin. For females, the bag is placed over the labia. Place a diaper over the infant (bag and all). Check your baby frequently and remove the bag after the infant has urinated into it. For active infants, this procedure may take a couple of attempts - lively infants can displace the bag, causing an inability to obtain the specimen.

The urine is drained into a container for transport back to the health care provider. The specimen is then smelled in a laboratory or by the health care provider to determine its odor.

How to prepare for the test
No special preparation is necessary for this test, but if the collection is being taken from an infant, a couple of extra collection bags may be necessary.

How the test will feel
The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.

Normal Values
The normal odor of urine is aromatic.

What abnormal results mean
Abnormal urine odor may indicate:

  • hepatic (liver) failure  
  • ketonuria  
  • maple sugar urine disease (very rare)  
  • phenylketonuria (rare)  
  • rectal fistula  
  • urinary tract infection

What the risks are
There are no risks.

Special considerations

When urine sits at room temperature, some of the chemicals in the urine may break down and cause an ammonia-like odor.

Asparagus produces a characteristic odor in the urine.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.