If you’re like many adults, you’ve probably imagined what it would be like to be blind, but we tend to take our noses for granted. You might be surprised to learn how much your life could change if you have anosmia.
Anosmia is the medical term for loss of smell. It’s becoming more of an issue now because it’s a common symptom of COVID-19.
What would you do if you lost your sense of smell? Learn more about risk factors for anosmia and how to cope if you’re affected.
Understanding the Loss of Smell
Anosmia can have many causes, and it’s usually temporary. One study found that 86% of people who have COVID-19 lose some or all of their ability to smell, but this symptom lasts less than 3 weeks for 75% of them.
These strategies may help you to understand anosmia and bring relief:
- Identify the causes. Age increases your risk. Almost 25% of men and 11% of women over 60 experience anosmia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other causes can range from allergies to tumors or anything that blocks your nose or interferes with olfactory signals to your brain.
- Wait it out. Simple respiratory infections are the most common cause. Your sense of smell will likely return when your sniffles go away.
- See your doctor. If your symptoms last for more than 3 days or have no obvious explanation, seek medical care. A correct diagnosis will help you to get appropriate care.
- Adjust medications. A change of prescription may help too. Let your doctor know if you’re taking antibiotics or drugs for high blood pressure.
- Keep updated. Ironically, the pandemic has some benefits. Increased research may enhance diagnoses and treatments for anosmia, so patients could have more options soon.
Living with the Loss of Smell
Your physical and mental wellbeing may be affected when you’re unable to enjoy the scent of roses or fresh baked bread.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes and medical treatments like these can help:
- Talk about it. You may be more prone to depression and anxiety because your sense of smell is tied to daily pleasure, memories, and social interactions. Consider counseling or a support group if you feel isolated or overwhelmed.
- Change your diet. Losing interest in food could also put you at risk for malnutrition and excessive weight loss. Try eating nutrient dense foods with intense flavors to stimulate your appetite.
- Prevent accidents. What if you’re unable to smell gas or smoke? Check the batteries in your smoke detector and take other precautions around your home.
- Quit smoking. Tobacco can dull your sense of smell and taste. If you’ve tried quitting in the past, try again with a combination of methods, like nicotine replacement products and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Clean up. For quick relief from respiratory infections or allergies, rinse the inside of your nose. You can make a saltwater solution at home or buy a product at your local drugstore.
- Manage chronic conditions. Anosmia can be associated with many medical conditions, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Following your doctor’s recommendations could reduce more than one symptom.
- Train your nose. Research is limited, but some patients report positive results from using smell training kits. Basically, you inhale scents like lavender and lemon a few times a day for at least a month to help regenerate your olfactory nerve.
There are many things you can do to enhance the quality of your life if your sense of smell diminishes. Knowing the facts can help you to recover or manage your symptoms.