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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Can`t smell or taste

08/04/2009

Question:

I JUST GOT OVER A BAD COLD, AND NOW I HAVE NO TASTE OR SMELL TO ANYTHING. CAN`T TASTE FOOD, DRINKS, CAN`T SMELL NOTHING. WHATS WRONG WITH THIS COLD THATS ALMOST OVER, I HOPE. ?

Answer:

Sometimes the virus associated with a cold can infect the nerve endings along the roof of the nose that enable us to smell.  This will impair the sense of smell sometimes completely, but usually only partially.  It is often associated with distorted odor perceptions as well, that is you may be able to smell some odors but they may be distorted now. 

Your taste is most likely intact.  Our taste buds respond only to salt, sour, sweet, and bitter.  When we eat, odors are released that then stimulate our smell, providing important flavor information.  When someone loses the sense of smell, foods tend to taste "flat", or have no flavor.

Unfortunately, there is no current therapy available to treat smell loss from a virus.  However, over time some recovery usually does occur.  It is important to make certain you don't have any underlying sinus infection or inflammation, so you may want to see an ENT physician to make certain this is the case. 

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati