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The Surprising Health Risks of Losing Your Sense of Smell


Our olfactory senses, or smell, play a vital role in our lives. It’s more than just a way of enjoying the flowers or boosting our food taste. Losing your sense of smell can pose specific health risks from several different sources. The smell of something burning or gas in the air from a burner left on can be a life-saving indicator of our environment. We can miss the smell of food that has gone rancid or the taste of something “off” in our drink. Through our sense of smell, we protect ourselves from danger, enhance our experiences, and fully engage in the world around us.

Understanding Smell and What Can Cause Us To Lose It

We often think of smells as being singular. Coffee smells like coffee, beef like beef, apples like apples. However, this is a simplistic view of what makes up scents and how our nose processes them. Most smells are composed of various components known as ‘odorants.’ Odorants are small components that trigger the olfactory neurons in our upper nasal passages. These nerves are attuned to certain odorants and trigger accordingly. These nerves then communicate the combined scents to a spot in our brain known as the olfactory bulb. This cluster of fibers is what determines that the combined odorants create a smell known as, for instance, “coffee.”

There are a variety of things that can interfere with your ability to identify and process smells properly. Here are three examples:

  • Viruses – If you’ve ever been congested and realized that it dulled your sense of smell, you’re familiar with this effect. The recent pandemic also introduced a virus that does this as a primary effect rather than a side effect due to congestion. COVID-19 has been reported to impact the ability of sufferers to smell and taste, sometimes for extended periods. Oral steroids have been shown to have the ability to restore these senses in some patients.
  • Nasal Polyps – Polyps are small growths, sometimes found atop a stalk, that interfere with our sense of smell. These are generally easily resolved with either surgery or medication. In most cases, the impacted sense of smell will return.
  • Tumors – Tumors can impact our ability to smell properly by impacting the function of the olfactory bulb. Surgery may help restore the sense of smell in these cases.
  • Other Causes – Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have been known to impact the sense of smell. Physical trauma can occur as well. However, restoring the sense of smell is often harder in these cases.

Speak To Your Immunology Specialist For Help

Determining the underlying cause of your loss of smell is the first step toward finding a solution. Scheduling a consultation with your asthma, allergy, and immunology expert are where to begin. They’ll go over your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and begin building a treatment plan. With their help, it may not be long before you can stop and smell the roses again. Make your first step to recovering your sense of smell today!


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