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.
Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection
Common symptoms of sinus infections may include:
- Runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than seven to 10 days
- Complaints of drip in the throat from the nose
- Keep chronic diseases under control
- Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay current on your vaccines
- Wash your hands frequently
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.
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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.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider
Anosmia related to colds, flus and infections usually goes away within a few days. If you have lingering anosmia, schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider.
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
If you have anosmia, understanding your condition can put your mind at ease and help you make decisions regarding treatment. Here are a few questions you may want to ask your provider:
- Is my loss of smell due to a cold, flu or infection?
- Do I have an underlying condition that needs to be treated?
- Could any of my medications be causing anosmia?
- Are there other things I can do to restore my sense of smell?
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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.
Is A Loss Of Sense Of Smell And Sinus Infections Related
Watch the video above as Jing Shen, MD explains Smell Disfunction
You probably take your sense of smell for granted, but do you ever wonder what it would be like if you had a loss of sense of smell? A total loss of smell is known as anosmia. When you don’t have a sense of smell, your food will taste different, you won’t be able to smell flowers and you may even find yourself in dangerous circumstances unknowingly .
Below we go over how your sense of smell works, the impacts of a loss of sense of smell, and if sinus infections can cause a loss of sense of smell.
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What Is Acute Sinusitis
Acute sinusitis is a short-term inflammation of the sinuses, most often including a sinus infection. The sinuses are four paired cavities in the head. They are connected by narrow channels. The sinuses make thin mucus that drains out of the channels of the nose, cleaning the nose. Typically filled with air, the sinuses can become blocked by fluid and swell from irritation. When this happens, they can become infected.
The Effects Of Sinusitis
Whether acute or chronic, sinusitis can have a significant impact on your health, leading to:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain and pressure around your sinuses
- Postnasal drip
- Runny nose
Among these symptoms lies an unlikely effect a loss or reduction of your sense of smell and taste.
Lets start with your loss of smell. First, because of the congestion that often comes with sinusitis, youre unable to breathe in deeply enough to reach the olfactory sensory neurons higher up in your nose to initiate smell in the first place.
Second, the viral infection inside your nasal passageways can temporarily damage your highly sensitive sensory cells.
Your sense of taste and its relationship to sinusitis is trickier. The condition doesnt necessarily lead to a direct loss of taste, but it can alter the sense because your sense of smell and taste are linked. Taste and smell work in lockstep, and when you lose one, the other is compromised.
Your sense of taste may also be altered because of a pervading foul taste brought on my infected mucus at the back of your mouth and throat.
The bottom line is that the sooner you come in to see us for treatment, the sooner we can restore order among your senses. If you suspect you have sinusitis, please call us so we can set up an appointment.
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When To See A Doctor
In most cases, losing your sense of smell and taste is temporary. Its most often related to an underlying cause, such as the common cold or seasonal allergies, and will resolve itself over time.
If your loss of smell and taste continues to be a problem for l, you should contact a healthcare professional for advice and treatment options.
If you suspect, your loss of smell and taste is related to something more severe, such as COVID-19 or a complication with your medications, contact your doctor or call your local health department immediately.
How Long Will It Take To Regain My Sense Of Taste
Because everyone heals at different rates, theres unfortunately no set amount of time in which you can expect to regain your senses of taste and smell. But we do know that the faster you open your sinuses and clear the infection, the faster your healing will occur. With the proper treatment, you could be enjoying that lasagna again within a few days, or it may take up to a few weeks.
Rarely, it can take several months to regain your sense of taste, but this usually results from chronic sinus infections that are harder to treat.
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Explaining The Smell Caused By Sinus Infections
In my career of dealing with patients that have chronic sinusitis , many have commented on the constant foul smell they experience when they have an active sinus infection. Descriptive terms that Ive heard in the past include gym socks, locker rooms and foul smelling garbage. Other descriptive terms include rotten fruit or meat and sewage.
Unfortunately for these patients, the location of the infection is the most important cause for the smell because of the proximity of the infection to the olfactory apparatus that processes our ability to smell. However, there are other mitigating circumstances that contribute to the foul smell. These include the type of bacteria associated with a particular patients sinus infection.
In most instances, one of the factors involved with a foul smell is due to the microbial make-up that the patient has with their sinus infections. This is mostly seen in patients that have chronic infections. In patients with chronic infections, the microbial make-up is more poly-microbial in nature. In other words, there are multiple bacteria involved, and in some instances, fungi that may be a contributing factor to the smell patients are experiencing.
Possible Causes Of Smell Loss
COVID-19The loss of smell, with or without changes in taste, related to COVID-19 infection typically occurs without the nasal congestion or runny nose that is typically seen with a cold. Associated symptoms may also include headache, a dry cough, shortness of breath, high fever, stomach problems, and a persistent sore throat. More severe symptoms such as these often point to COVID-19 or the flu. During the pandemic, anyone who has a new loss of smell or taste, even without any of those other symptoms, should be suspected of having COVID-19 and be tested, whether or not they have been previously vaccinated. Polymerase chain reaction testing for COVID-19 can be easily obtained and will identify those patients with COVID-19.
Patients that experience a loss of smell from COVID-19 that does not get better after several months may benefit from, smell retraining therapy. This treatment, which can be done at home by sniffing four different scents twice a day for four to six months, has proven to improve the smell for some, but not all patients. An ENT specialist may advise additional therapies, such as sinus rinses with topical nasal steroids. Parosmia, or altered sense of smell, may occur weeks or months after loss of smell with COVID-19.
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What Effects Does A Loss Of Sense Of Smell Have
Individuals with anosmia might lose interest in eating and food which could lead to weight loss and malnutrition.
When you have anosmia, you should ensure you have functioning smoke alarms in your home in various locations. You should also be careful with the use of natural gas and with food storage since you might have issues detecting gas leaks and spoiled food.
Some suggested precautions are:
Label all foods with expiration dates properly
Use electric appliances
Read labels on chemicals like insecticides and kitchen cleaners
The Many Faces Of Sinusitis
Sinusitis can develop for many reasons. For example, congestion in your sinuses is often part and parcel of an upper respiratory infection, such as the cold or flu. As well, allergies can wreak havoc on your sinuses, leading to inflammation that blocks your mucus.
Sinus issues that are chronic, meaning they last three months or more, can be brought about by ongoing problems with allergies or structural issues, like a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
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Will Smell Return After A Cold
Usually when people have a cold, they have congestion and a runny nose, and they can’t breathe through their nose, he says. At the base level that usually causes a temporary reduction in smell. However, once the congestion resolves, in patients with viral induced smell loss, their smell does not recover.
What About Nasal Polyps And Other Causes
If the diminished sense of smell and taste persists after an infection has cleared, or if the patient didnt have an infection to begin with, nasal polyps could be the cause. Nasal polyps are soft, painless, noncancerous growths on the lining of your nasal passages or sinuses. They hang down like teardrops or grapes. They result from chronic inflammation and are associated with asthma, recurring infection, allergies, drug sensitivity or certain immune disorders.
“I’ve seen nasal polyps so large they were literally growing out of a patients nostril, or so small we needed a CT scan to see them,” says Dr. McConnell.
Polyps cause problems because they block the air flow to olfactory fibers. These are located in the upper part of the sinuses and deliver information about scent to the brain.
“When we inhale, the air passes over the olfactory fibers, but if they are blocked by polyps, they cant function as well,” McConnell says. Removing nasal polyps is an endoscopic, outpatient procedure. Patients should regain lost smell within three to six months of polyp removal.
Other causes of smell disorders are rare, but include underlying brain tumors, head injuries, dental problems, side effects from certain cancer treatments, Parkinsons disease and Alzheimers disease.
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Why Cant I Smell Or Taste Well During A Cold Or Sinus Infection
Smell or olfaction, is one of the five human senses that is often overlooked. It plays an important role in the appreciation of food flavors and pleasant odorants , detection of potential hazardous situations or materials and is integral in a persons daily social interactions and awareness of his or her surroundings. In this short blog, Dr Gan explains why we cant smell when we have a cold and discuss some of the common causes of loss of smell and taste, an area that is often neglected not only by patients but also by some Family Physicians and Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists.
Figure 1 The location of the olfactory nerves in the nose. When smell is detected by the olfactory nerves, the smell information is carried by signals that are transmitted by the olfactory bulb and olfactory tract to the brain.
Unfortunately for some, during the cold, flu or sinus infection, the loss of sense of smell is not due to a physical blockage. It is due to the virus, bacteria or inflammation causing damage to the smell nerves during the infection. If the smell nerves are damaged, the loss of smell is often permanent and irreversible. Most often, the cause for prolonged loss of sense of smell is unknown . Other common causes of prolonged loss of sense of smell include severe head trauma , chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps and rhinitis. In rare instances the loss may be due to a nose or brain tumour!
When You Stop To Smell The Roses And Cannot Smell A Thing
It all started with allergies or so I thought. We moved into a new house and there are all of these new plants, some more exotic, that were in full bloom when it started. The itchy watery eyes, the sneezes, the post-nasal drip..drip..drip. Too much? Nah, you hear worse over your Grand Rounds or Noon Lunch-and-Learn sessions.
But, I digress.
Then it got worse. Around 1 week later, the cough started. The body aches. The headaches. The sore throat. The influenza-like illness, or ILI, arrived with no apologies. I thought the virus had done its worst then, as I made my morning coffee, Wacky Wednesday started. I could not smell it. It seemed strange, but I thought it was just congestion. I took a sip. Hot liquid, tasteless. I rummaged through my kitchensmelling and tasting noxious things, testing my senses. Garlic? Nothing. Chili Lime seasoning? Nothing. Pepper, salt, ginger? All nothing.
I lost my sense of taste and smell.
Of course, as an ID specialist, the infections are what catch my eye.What infections can cause this? How does it happen?
All this being said, smell and taste can be a secondary impact of many common viral and bacterial infections of the head and neck. Treatment should be specific toward the underlying infection to start. Any infections that can cause mass or invasive lesions could also result in damage. Many patients will have full recovery, but for those who do not, referral to a specialist is in order for further evaluation and management.
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What Is A Sinus Infection
“Sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, commonly known as a sinus infection, is an inflammation in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses,” says Kavita Shanker-Patel, MD, a family medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “A sinus infection typically lasts less than four weeks.”
The most common causes of sinus infections are viruses. But you can also have a bacterial rhinosinusitis, though it’s less likely. These occur in only about 0.5 to 2 percent of sinus infection episodes, according to Dr. Shanker-Patel. “This happens when bacteria secondarily infect an inflamed sinus cavity, and most commonly occurs as a complication of a viral infection,” she explains.
Typical sinus infection symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Loss of smell and taste
- Nasal congestion