Smell Loss Related To Colds Allergies Sinus Issues And Covid
Anosmia is the lack of sense of smell and frequently goes hand in hand with the lack of taste. Since the smell receptors are in the upper portion of the nose, anything that can prevent air from reaching these smell receptors can affect your ability to smell. The receptors are located on both sides of the nose, so complete blockage of both your nasal passages may lead to loss of smell, but blockage of one side or the other can also cause this in some people.
Usually, when your nasal breathing improves, so does your sense of smell. Although congestion and obstruction are often the cause of smell issues, there are several other reasons not related to nasal obstruction why people can lose their sense of smell, including recent or repetitive head injury, a viral cold, COVID-19 infections, and many others including chronic nasal and sinus conditions, such as polyps.
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How A Disordered Sense Of Smell And Taste Relate
The senses of smell and taste are very closely linked. Most people who visit a doctor because they think they have lost their sense of taste are surprised to learn they have a smell disorder instead. Generally, a smell or taste disorder will fall into these four categories:
Anosmia: Loss of sense of smell.
Ageusia: Loss of sense of taste. .
Hyposmia: Reduced ability to smell.
Hypogeusia: Reduced ability to taste sweet, sour, bitter, or salty things. .
According to Dr. Wendy McConnell, “About 80 percent of taste disturbances are actually related to changes in a persons sense of smell. Most often changes in smell are caused by temporary conditions that cause irritation or swelling in the nasal cavity, like a sinus infection, allergies or a cold,” she says.
Dr. McConnell, who is a board certified INTEGRIS Health otolaryngologist and an expert in sinus disorders and rhinology, says that loss of taste, or disturbance of taste, is not uncommon with sinus infections or colds. In fact, “Most people will notice their taste is altered, and some foods may taste different or not as distinct as before,” she says. Thankfully, “Treating the cause of nasal swelling will usually resolve the alteration of taste.”
Head Injury Or Trauma
The brain plays a crucial role in processing smell, and taste, and any injury to trauma to the brain can impact your senses for a limited time. If the olfactory nerves, the nerves in the brain responsible for processing smell, are damaged, you could experience a temporary or permanent loss of smell. With time and proper treatment, your senses of smell and taste could return to normal.
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How To Clear Your Sinuses In 20 Seconds
To clear your sinuses, use this 20-second trick. According to Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, this technique causes the vomer bone to rock back and forth. This loosens congestion, and allows the sinuses to drain.
1. Push your tongue against the roof of your mouth and press your thumb between your eyebrows.2. Continue to apply pressure and hold for 20 seconds. When you release, your sinuses will begin to drain.
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Viral Damage And Nasal Sinus Disease
In adults, the two most common causes of smell problems that we see at our Clinic are: Smell loss due to an ongoing process in the nose and/or sinuses such as nasal allergies and smell loss due to injury of the specialized nerve tissue at the top of the nose from a previous viral upper respiratory infection. Individuals who lose their sense of smell as a result of a respiratory virus generally give us a very clear history of dating their smell loss from a time when they were experiencing cold or flu symptoms. These patients are typically in the older age groups. The smell loss is partial rather than total for many, and can be associated with taste loss, parosmias and/or dysgeusias. There is no known effective therapy for taste and/or smell problems due to presumed viral damage. Specifically, treatment with zinc is not recommended because it was not demonstrated to be any more effective than placebo. Some patients will recover function with time. We have followed some individuals with this disorder long-term. Of these, only 18 percent significantly improved their smell function on retesting. Improvement was gradual. Although this low improvement rate is discouraging, it should be remembered that we typically see the worst cases here at the Taste and Smell Clinic. There are probably many individuals out in the community who lost their sense of smell as a result of a virus and recovered it within short periods of time.
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Diagnosis Of Loss Of Taste And Smell
If you have lost your sense of taste and smell, you should visit an otolaryngologist, or ENT. This is a doctor who specializes in the ears, nose, and throat.
An ENT will use tests to determine how severe your loss of smell or taste is, and whether particular odors or tastes are impacted more than others. Some tests measure the smallest amount of smell or taste that you can detect. Others ask you to correctly identify certain tastes or smells.
Why Do My Nostrils Smell Bad
If you havent been feeling well and find yourself suddenly thinking, Oh man, the inside of my nose smells bad, its time to do a little investigating.
A bacterial sinus infection may be behind why the inside of your nose smells rotten, or why you might notice smells when blowing your nose. When healthy, your sinuses are naturally able to drain mucus . During a sinus infection, however, your sinuses become swollen and potentially congested. This can trap mucus and all that it has filtered from the air, which can, in turn, lead to some rather unpleasant odors.
The fluid that builds up in nasal polyps has also been known to cause bad nasal smells, as does the mucus that accumulates at the back of the throat during postnasal drip.
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How Long Do Symptoms Last
Typically, a sinus infection clears up within 2 to 3 weeks. COVID-19 lasts for about a week or two depending on its severity and your overall health.
A 2020 study surveyed 270 outpatients with COVID-19. Among them, 175 people reported returning to their usual level of health about 7 days after a positive COVID-19 test.
Some symptoms like cough and loss of smell or taste may linger temporarily after COVID-19. Some people may experience long-haul COVID-19, a group of symptoms that persist in the weeks and months following an infection.
How Your Sense Of Smell Works
Taste and smell disorders are the cause of many thousands of individuals in the U.S. to see a doctor every year. Fortunately, for most individuals, anosmia is only a temporary problem caused by a seriously stuffy nose from a cold. After the cold goes away, their sense of smell comes back.
However, for some individuals, including many seniors, anosmia is persistent and it could indicate a more serious health condition.
Like your sense of taste, your sense of smell is a part of your chemical senses . You have the ability to smell due to olfactory sensory neurons . Each olfactory neuron has an odor receptor. Substances around you release microscopic molecules whether the substances are pine trees or coffee brewing. These microscopic molecules stimulate the odor receptors.
Once the molecules are detected by the neurons, the neurons send messages to your brain, identifying the smell. The environment has more smells in it than you have receptors, and one molecule can stimulate a group of receptors which creates a unique representation in your brain. Your brain registers these representations as a specific smell.
There are two pathways in which smells reach your olfactory sensory neurons.
Facial Pain Or Pressure
Another possible sign of a sinus infection: facial pain. “Sinus infections can cause a feeling of pressure, squeezing, or congestion in the cheeks, between the eyes, or in the forehead,” says Dr. Gudis. You may notice that the pressure worsens when you lean forward, like to do something like tie your shoes, he says.
Causes & Risk Factors
Any health situation that blocks off the vital drainage channels of your sinuses can cause a sinus infection including:
- Respiratory infections like the common cold
- Hay fever or exposure to allergens such as cigarette smoke, dry air and pollutants
- Obstructions in the nasal or sinus cavities including nasal polyps, deviated septum, or nasal bone spur
- Non-allergic rhinitis
- Infections resulting from dental problems
- Physical injury to the sinuses
- Bacteria, viruses, and fungi
The five most common bacteria that can cause sinus infections are: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pyogenes.
Risk factors for sinus infections include:
- Having asthma
- Being in the hospital, especially if the reason you are in the hospital is related to a head injury or you needed a tube inserted into your nose
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Losing Taste With Sinus Infection
Lots of patients report losing taste with sinus infection. This is because the inflammation and drainage from your sinus cavities affects your nose, which in turn distorts your senses of taste and smell. This can also happen when patients have a cold, allergies or any other condition that causes congestion.
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Common Sinus Infection Symptoms
A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, can cause a variety of symptoms. Usually, patients experience headaches and/or tenderness near their sinus cavities, which are located along the cheekbones and forehead. Cold and flu-like symptoms such as post-nasal drip, congestion, fatigue, and sore throat, are also common.
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What Causes Loss Of Taste & Smell And How To Get Them Back
Colds, sinus infections, and general congestion are the most common causes of temporary loss of smell. Typically, your sense of smell will return as your congestion clears up. While this is the most common offender, there are plenty of other issues that can lead to loss of smell or taste. These include:
- Over-exposure to certain chemicals
- Upper Respiratory Infection
Most commonly, upper respiratory infections are the cause of loss of smell and taste. This includes common colds and flus which cause nasal congestion.
Upper respiratory infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicines, cough drops, and flu medicines. Home remedies like nasal irrigations or nasal sprays may also help alleviate congestion.
As your cold or flu clears up, your smell and taste should return within a few days, though some viral infections can cause permanent damage to your sense of taste.
About Author: David Pruitt
David Pruitt is a writer for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare. He has a bachelors of journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a reporter before joining OSF HealthCare in 2014. An avid golfer and fisherman, David was born and raised Alton, Illinois, which is where he currently resides with his son, James.
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How Can I Get My Taste Back After A Sinus Infection
So how do you get your taste back? Generally, because a loss of taste and smell is tied to the infection itself, you start by getting rid of the sinus infection.
There are many ways to relieve sinus congestion, but keep in mind that not everything works for everyone, and there is no substitute for a medical professionals guidance. Here are some tips on how to get rid of a sinus infection:
- Stay hydrated
- Use a humidifier and take frequent hot showers
- Use a Neti pot or saline spray
- Eat foods with antibacterial properties
- Warm facial compresses can help clear nasal passages
- Ask your pharmacist to recommend OTC medicines
While your sense of taste and smell usually returns to normal after healing, it can be complicated by chronic congestion and there is no way to guarantee its recovery after an infection. The best way to ensure that the integrity of your senses remains intact is to treat the root of the problem: the infections themselves.
Balloon Sinuplasty is a minimally invasive, in-office procedure that can help keep your sense of taste intact. In about 20 minutes, the procedure can restore proper drainage and airflow, significantly lowering your risk for chronic sinus pressure, and therefore infections. Traditional sinus surgery is often invasive and expensive, employing general anesthetics and requiring 3-5 days for recovery. Balloon sinuplasty can keep you out of the operating room at a fraction of the cost.
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An Introduction To Your Sinuses
You have four pairs of sinuses located around your nose and eyes. These air-filled chambers vibrate, adding tonality to your speech, and the mucous membranes that line them filter the air you breathe.
The membranes, or mucosa, can produce up to a quart of mucus per day. As the mucus continually drains away down the back of your throat, it traps bacteria, germs, and viruses. The mucus also keeps your throat and nasal cavities from feeling dried out and scratchy. When you have a sinus infection, your sinus cavities swell and stop draining. The trapped mucus can become infected, causing even more congestion and inflammation, which causes further swelling and blockage. Its a vicious cycle. When this happens over and over, or happens and doesnt go away for weeks or months, you have sinusitis.
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But Is It Sinus Infection Or Covid
Overlapping symptoms can make it very difficult to determine whether one has a sinus infection or a COVID-19 infection. If you are unsure of what your symptoms might constitute and have not been tested, use common sense when it comes to symptom management and be mindful of local health ordinances.
Common symptoms of each include:
Should I Go To The Doctor To Make Sure My Symptoms Are *not* Covid
Both experts agree that if you have any of the symptoms above, you should check in with your health care provider. However, this doesnt mean you need to actually go see your doctor just yet.
A lot of doctors office are offering telemedicine, which may be a good way to reduce your exposure, along with the health care providers exposure, says Dr. Shanker-Patel. Most have protocols in place to try to discern these types of infections from one another, so your best bet is to discuss any and all symptoms with them, and they can provide you with the best guidance.
A few things to think about before doing a telemedicine check-in that can also help you gauge whether you could have COVID: Have you been exposed to someone that was sick? Have you done any recent travel? says Dr. Del Signore. Considering those that you have been around and plan to be around if youre not feeling well are also important screening factors.
The bottom line: The symptoms of a sinus infection and COVID-19 may appear similarly in some cases, so check in with your doctor if you are concerned youve been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
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Treating Loss Of Taste And Smell
If you lose your sense of taste or smell, you should talk to a healthcare professional. They will work to identify the cause of your loss. That will determine what treatment is used.
If your loss is due to a medical issue, addressing that can help return your sense of smell. This might mean changing medications, getting treatment for congestion, or starting an allergy medication.
In other cases, like with COVID-19 or a concussion, youll have to wait for your senses of taste and smell to return. Some people experience a spontaneous return or their sense of taste and smell but, in rare cases, the conditions can be permanent.
You can also adopt lifestyle changes to enhance sensations of taste and smell. Cooking with aromatic ingredients, using bold colors, or adding spices can increase your satisfaction from meals. Counseling can also help with the emotional side of losing your sense of taste and smell.
Signs Of A Sinus Infection
A sinus infection is something you want to deal with right away to prevent it from escalating. However, its not easy to discern between the different symptoms and what they mean. After all, an infection manifests itself in a similar way to the flu or a cold, so you cant always act decisively.
With that in mind, here are some signs you have a sinus infection and should see an ear, nose and throat doctor.
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When Is The Right Time To Look For A Doctor
Losing the sense of taste and feeling cold because of the allergens is temporary. But in certain serious conditions, it can be a sign of serious complications. It may lead to malnutrition, poor quality of life, overeating, and under-eating habits.
Approach a doctor and seek immediate medical help if your symptoms go beyond the chest congestion. However, chest congestion is itself a serious medical condition. It can bring many unwanted changes to the body. Most of the hazardous diseases enter the body through upper respiratory infection or chest congestion. You can work on your symptoms, then only you can get your taste back after a sinus infection.
Sense of taste is strongly connected with the sense of smell. You need both the abilities to taste your food. Many things may interfere with the smell and taste of food. This may further include, colds, allergies, influenza, and other medical conditions. Also, even if you have regained your taste, the symptoms may affect you adversely or may come and go in intervals. Loss of taste and senses can also be a sign of COVID-19 or corona. Treat yourself and get to know the symptoms. Acknowledgment and having a good sense of choice at the time of disease create all differences.
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