Impaired sense of smell and taste can be due to many things. The most common causes are nasal congestion or swollen mucosa in the nose. It can also be due to damage to a nerve or to the brain.

What we perceive as taste is largely perceived by the sense of smell. Therefore, a reduced sense of smell also means that you get a reduced sense of taste.

Reduced smell and taste can mean that you do not feel any smell or taste at all. It can also mean that you partly feel smells and tastes.

When and where should I seek care?

Contact a health care center if you have had a problem with a decreased sense of smell and taste for more than a month. You can contact many receptions by logging in.

Immediately contact a health care center or an on-call reception as soon as possible if you have had a blow to the head and have difficulty feeling the smell or taste. If closed, seek care at an emergency room.

What could it be?

The most common reason why the sense of smell and taste sense is impaired is that the nose is clogged and the mucous membrane is swollen. It is often due to colds or allergies, but sometimes there is no clear cause. Swollen mucous membranes in the nose and nasal congestion that are not a brother to colds or allergies are called vasomotor rhinitis.

Smoking makes your sense of smell and taste worse.

A blow to the head can damage the olfactory center on the underside of the brain or the olfactory nerve that is stuck in the upper part of the nose.

What can I do for myself?

There is a lot you can do yourself if you are stuffy in the nose. You can use a nasal spray if you are cold. You can buy it at a pharmacy free of charge. Do not use the nasal spray for more than ten days, as it may cause nasal congestion instead.

You can also try non-prescription nasal spray with cortisone. It reduces inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose and can be used for more than ten days.

If you suspect that the problems are due to allergies, you can try non-prescription medicines for allergies.

Quitting smoking is good for health in many other ways as well. Learn more about  helping to quit smoking.

Investigations

Sometimes an investigation may be needed to find out what the trouble is.

Then the doctor examines your nose to find out if there is anything in your nose that prevents air from passing up to the olfactory cells. For example, it may be because the mucous membranes in the nose are swollen.

You can also do an allergy examination to see if the trouble is due to any type of allergy.

Some may need to be further investigated. They can then get a referral to a doctor who is a specialist in the diseases of the brain and nervous system or of diseases of the ears, nose and throat.

Treatment of impaired sense of smell and taste

Impaired sense of smell and taste due to colds or other nasal problems tend to be good after the infection has been treated. A swollen mucosa in the nose can usually be treated with cortisone spray.

Disorders due to allergies usually go over if you are being treated.

When decreased sense of smell and taste is due to age changes or nerve or brain damage, there is no treatment of impaired sense of smell and taste to help. Then it’s more about learning how to handle the new situation.

To live with a reduced sense of smell and taste

A decreased sense of smell can greatly affect life and make you unsafe in several situations. For example, you may be worried about a fire starting without you noticing, because you do not feel the smell of fire smoke. Some may feel unsafe if they, for example, smell sweaty or have used too much perfume. You can also miss or feel sad about not being able to feel the flavors and smells anymore.

By training the memory for how the food tastes, you can learn to live with a reduced sense of smell and taste. Then you instead use other senses, such as vision and feeling, to remember how the food tasted, smelled and felt before the deterioration.

Ehtisham Nadeem

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