While all five of your senses are important, your sense of smell is not often discussed. But an unusual COVID-19 symptom called anosmia is bringing the sense of smell, or lack thereof, to the top of everyone’s mind.
How Smell Works
Your ability to smell is a relatively simple process. A substance releases a molecule (such as the scent of freshly baked bread), which travels into the nose and stimulates the olfactory nerve cell. These nerve cells high in the nose send the information to the brain where a specific smell is identified.
Anything that disrupts this process can cause a loss of smell, such as:
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal blockage
- Damage to the olfactory cells
Your sense of smell is tied to your ability to taste. Without this information, your taste buds are only able to detect a few flavors.
Loss of Smell
A complete loss of smell is known medically as anosmia. This condition can make food taste different and puts you in dangerous situations, including an inability to detect a gas leak, smell smoke or determine that food is unsafe to consume.
Many with anosmia will find that their sense of smell returns once the underlying condition is identified and treated. Unfortunately for some, the condition is permanent.
Anosmia can also be a sign of a serious medical condition. This means if you are experiencing an ongoing issue with your sense of smell, you should contact an ear, nose and throat doctor.
Causes of Anosmia
- Nasal polyps
- Injury to the nose
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Certain medications
- Cocaine abuse
Treatment for Anosmia
Treatment is not usually needed if your loss of smell is caused by nasal congestion from a cold or allergies. Over-the-counter decongestants can help open up your nasal passage, speeding up the recovery process.
If your congestion gets worse or does not subside after a few days, you should consult a doctor.
An infection can be treated with antibiotics. The presence of a polyp or other growth may require surgery to remove the obstruction. Medication usage can be treated with a change in drug, but this should only be completed under medical oversight.
To learn more about your sense of smell or to schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist, contact the professionals at Waco Ear, Nose & Throat today.