These days a sudden loss of taste and smell is a cause for alarm. Of course, the first thing that jumps to mind is the potential of having COVID-19.
The good news is that COVID-19 isn’t the only disease that can lead to a loss of taste and smell. Other potentially less serious issues could be the reason, too.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, or more severe conditions like COVID-19. Many of the illnesses caused by coronaviruses can lead to loss of taste or smell.
Dr. Melissa McBrien, a Beaumont otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), says, “Along with a COVID-19 infection, other viral infections, such as colds, can result in a loss of smell and taste. Sometimes this is just for the length of the cold when the nose is blocked, but other times the lack of smell can last weeks to months.”
While it’s still a good idea to get tested if you think you have COVID-19, the loss of taste and smell alone isn’t a cause for alarm.
Allergies or Sinus Infection
Even if you don’t usually experience a loss of taste and smell during the allergy season, this could be the cause of your trouble.
Too much stuff in your nose dampens your ability to taste and smell. The same problem appears with sinus infections.
To a certain extent, the senses of taste and smell naturally dull with age. If you are age 60 or older, you might notice that these senses don’t work as well as they used to.
Certain activities or issues can speed the loss of these senses as well. These include:
- dental problems
- nose or sinus problems (nasal polyps or growths, allergies, etc.)
- head or facial trauma
- some types of medication
- Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease
These types of loss of taste and smell tends to come on gradually, so you may not notice it right away.
Loss of Taste and Smell Treatment
How long does the loss of taste and smell last and is there anything you can do about it?
“While we used to think loss of smell was permanent if it lasted more than six months, we now know that it will often recover slowly over the years,” Dr. McBrien said. “Treatments such as smell training can be helpful in the recovery of this important sense.”
You may also be able to speed recovery by addressing the root cause. For example, your doctor may suggest steroid nasal sprays or drops to treat nasal polyps or sinusitis.
There are even some home remedies for this issue. These include smell training with pungent odors such as coffee or fresh ginger, placing drops of castor oil in your nose and using a saline rinse.
Keep in mind that working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are essential in the homes of people who have lost their sense of smell. They won’t have the ability to detect these life-threatening situations as early as someone else.
Dr. McBrien says that if you’re concerned about new or worsening loss of taste and smell, your first step should be contacting your primary care doctor. If your diagnosis requires additional follow up, you may be referred to an ENT specialist.
Next Steps and Helpful Resources