Anosmia - is it forever?
September 17, 2009 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Getting over a lousy cold/flu, can breathe again but can't smell anything. Is this permanent?

I'm a 37 y/o female who until recently had an extremely good olfactory ability. My toddler twins brought home the superflu from their daycare last week. After more than a week of illness the whole family's on the mend. I ended up with an ear infection and am being treated with antibiotics.

Two days ago, I noticed that although my stuffy nose was clearing up, I still couldn't smell anything. A sip of wine tasted like acetone, and my toddlers' dirty diapers, which I usually identify from afar by their odor, became imperceptible by scent. My nose is still running today but I'm breathing through it just fine. And I can't smell a thing.

I've looked up information on anosmia (loss of sense of smell) and found that colds and flu can cause this to happen - but from a stuffy nose, which I don't have. I called my doctor's office and the nurse their told me not to worry, but I was still stuffy this morning and am not now. I called a local ask-a-nurse hotline and they freaked the hell out.

I'd like to refrain from freaking for a bit but also would like more information. Has anyone heard of this happening and then going away? Or should I start selling off my perfume collection? (I was a BPAL collector before the kids came along.)
posted by terrierhead to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh yeah - YANMD.
posted by terrierhead at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2009

Best answer: I am not any sort of medical professional, but considering you're still getting over this illness and are still undergoing treatment, I would refrain from freaking out just yet.
posted by LolaGeek at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2009

You have no way of knowing yet if this is permanent, since you are still recovering. But I'd be willing to bet some serious cash that it's not.
posted by amro at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2009

Best answer: That happens to me every time I get over a cold. The first couple of days I can breathe, but nothing tastes good and I don't smell things so well. Add antibiotics to the mix, which always make things taste icky to me, and it sounds like just what I go through.
posted by xingcat at 11:20 AM on September 17, 2009

Did you take any ZICAM products? Their nasal gell has been recalled because of people losing their sense of smell, and I tried their mouth spray recently and was alarmed at how it destroyed my taste buds.
posted by hermitosis at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2009

Best answer: This has happened to me a couple of times - complete anosmia after a sinus infection - and I mean complete. I couldn't even smell gasoline held up to my nose. Searching online scared the hell out of me the first time with the mention that it might be permanent, but in both cases my sense of smell returned within a week.
posted by Neiltupper at 12:12 PM on September 17, 2009

Seconding the Zicam. The nasal swabs, in particular, are quite dangerous.
posted by Citrus at 12:41 PM on September 17, 2009

I called a local ask-a-nurse hotline and they freaked the hell out.

What does this mean? What did they say? Did they give you advice, tell you to been seen by your doctor? Did you follow up?
posted by peep at 1:49 PM on September 17, 2009

You're probably going to be okay. Give it a week or so.

One thing to try would be a nasal rinse - the good old neti pot or the NeilMed Sinus Rinse
posted by storybored at 2:01 PM on September 17, 2009

Response by poster: Re ask a nurse advice: I think the quote was "oh my god. You need to go in. Goodbye." They've been really alarmist before, though. I've already called my doctor's office and they've told me to hang tight for a few days.

I've been using the NeilMed rinse twice a day all this week. It's probably helping my headaches and might be helping my ear infection drain, but no luck on getting my sense of smell back.

I caught a whiff of tomato sauce from my lunch earlier. Things are looking up!
posted by terrierhead at 2:41 PM on September 17, 2009

A little while ago, I tried some Crest mouthwash and it completely destroyed my sense of taste. I was REALLY concerned, so I looked up a lot of information on loss of taste (and smell - the information was often in the same place) and while it's really unpleasant, it's highly unlikely that it'll be permanent. It looks (from reading the literature) like permanent losses in taste and smell are rarely sudden; they usually happen gradually, and in your situation, which is relatively common, you're pretty darn likely to be just fine.

(My sense of taste took 3 days to return.)
posted by Cygnet at 3:02 PM on September 17, 2009

I'm quite sure that if you're anything like me and my cold/flu remnants this thing is going to take weeks, many weeks, to clear up. I'm thinking it's like that ridiculous cough that just keeps going and going after a cold is over.
Sometimes it spills over into my next cold. I know, it lasts that long!
But not forever.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:13 PM on September 17, 2009

Strongly seconding Storybored's advice. Nasal lavage (video). Icky but effective for allergies, sinusitis, & colds. Alternative; neti pot (video). Also icky but effective.
posted by answergrape at 12:31 PM on September 18, 2009

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