A Comprehensive Review of Topical Odor-Controlling Treatment Options for Chronic Wounds

J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. Nov/Dec 2016;43(6):598-609. doi: 10.1097/WON.0000000000000273.


The process of wound healing is often accompanied by bacterial infection or critical colonization, resulting in protracted inflammation, delayed reepithelization, and production of pungent odors. The malodor produced by these wounds may lower health-related quality of life and produce psychological discomfort and social isolation. Current management focuses on reducing bacterial activity within the wound site and absorbing malodorous gases. For example, charcoal-based materials have been incorporated into dressing for direct adsorption of the responsible gases. In addition, multiple topical agents, including silver, iodine, honey, sugar, and essential oils, have been suggested for incorporation into dressings in an attempt to control the underlying bacterial infection. This review describes options for controlling malodor in chronic wounds, the benefits and drawbacks of each topical agent, and their mode of action. We also discuss the use of subjective odor evaluation techniques to assess the efficacy of odor-controlling therapies. The perspectives of employing novel biomaterials and technologies for wound odor management are also presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Charcoal / pharmacology
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use
  • Deodorants / pharmacology
  • Deodorants / therapeutic use*
  • Honey / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Iodine / pharmacology
  • Iodine / therapeutic use
  • Metronidazole / pharmacology
  • Metronidazole / therapeutic use
  • Odorants / prevention & control
  • Silver Compounds / pharmacology
  • Silver Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Wound Healing*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Deodorants
  • Silver Compounds
  • Metronidazole
  • Charcoal
  • Iodine