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Loss of Smell and Taste: Why it Happens and How to Cure It

Loss of Smell and Taste: Why it Happens and How to Cure It

The soothing scent of essential oils. Home-cooked meals you can appreciate from a distance. A glass of milk that’s already passed its consume-before date. And the alarming smell of burnt electrical wires. Our senses of smell and taste are not just accessories we use to appreciate a wide array of scents and flavors; they also tell us if there’s danger in our surroundings and when our food is still safe to eat. What if we lose them? How to cure loss of smell and taste?

Viral infections and our senses of smell and taste

In most cases, people do not need to cure the loss of smell and taste because it is temporary. The common culprit? Viral infections, such as colds, influenza, and now, COVID-19.

According to experts, some viruses target the tissues in the nose and could cause inflammation in the nerves responsible for our sense of smell, significantly affecting their function. And since 80% of the flavors we taste also come from those nerves, our sense of taste is affected, too.

We might be able to taste bitter, salty, sweet, and sour, but we’re not likely to “detect” subtle flavors, such as the oregano in pizza or the bits of garlic in the soup. This is probably why some people say their food tastes “different.”

The good news is, once the infection subsides, most people regain their sense of taste and smell. So how to cure loss of smell and taste? If, after you’re better, and your senses still aren’t back or they seem different, it’s best to seek the advice of a doctor.

Other possible causes

Of course, we cannot discount the fact that other possible conditions may lead to the loss of smell and taste.

For instance, it could be an early sign of neurological problems, like Alzheimer Disease and Parkinson Disease. Some diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy, could also damage nerves related to the sense of smell.

Age, allergies, certain medicines, and vitamin deficiencies could also affect our senses of smell and taste.

Should you suddenly lose your ability to smell and taste foods, isolate yourself (just in case it’s COVID-19) and set an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible to determine the possible cause.

How to cure loss of smell and taste?

To know how to cure loss of smell and taste, you must know the cause. If it’s due to an underlying health problem, then the doctor would take care of that condition first.

In the meantime, the following tips might help:

Use a nasal rinse

If you have an allergy or respiratory infection, experts say you could try rinsing your nose with a saltwater solution. You can make the solution at home or purchase one available in pharmacies (don’t forget to ask the pharmacist or your doctor about it, too).

To do it at home, boil a pint of water (473 ml) and let it cool. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda. Mix well. Then, stand over a sink and transfer the solution to a nasal syringe bulb. Squeeze the solution to the back of the head, one nostril at a time. The water should come out to the other nose or the mouth. Blow your nose after the nasal rinse.

Find ways to make meals more exciting

Should your loss of senses occur due to respiratory infections, the doctor may advise you to patiently wait until you recover. While waiting, you could find more ways to add flavor to your meals:

  • Choose meals with a variety of colors, textures, and flavors.
  • Go for foods with stronger flavors by adding different herbs and spices.
  • Refrain from preparing foods with many subtle flavors. For now, consider meals on the spicier side.

Consider smell training

To cure the loss of smell and taste, some people do smell training, where they smell different scents for about 20 seconds daily. You could ask your doctor about it, so they could give you smell training kits, or do it yourself with foods that have a distinct smell.

Key Takeaways

So how to cure loss of smell and taste quickly? Most people who have respiratory infections do not need to cure their loss of smell and taste because it’s temporary. However, if it suddenly happens or your senses haven’t returned yet after you fully recover, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

Check out other health topics under Health Knowledge here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Lost or changed sense of smell, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lost-or-changed-sense-smell/, Accessed June 22, 2021

Saltwater Washes (Nasal Saline Lavage or Irrigation) for Sinusitis, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw67090, Accessed June 23, 2021

Coping with the loss of smell and taste, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/coping-with-the-loss-of-sense-of-smell-and-taste-2020101921141, Accessed June 22, 2021

How COVID-19 Can Impact Your Sense of Smell, https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/june/covid-and-smell, Accessed June 22, 2021

What Can Cause a Loss of Taste and Smell?, https://www.keckmedicine.org/what-can-cause-a-loss-of-taste-and-smell/, Accessed June 22, 2021

How ‘smell training’ could help overcome post-viral smell distortions, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201130131517.htm, Accessed June 22, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 25
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel