I smell/taste copper when I hit my head
June 20, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Is it common to experience a taste/smell when one's head is hit very hard?

I'm not really worried about this indicating any sort of neurological issue, just wondering if other people experience this. On the few occasions when I've smacked my head REALLY hard (on the underside of a table or on the floor, for example), I have experienced a sensation. It's hard to describe because it's so fleeting, but when I try to bring it to mind now it seems like some sort of copper-y taste/smell hybrid. Anyone else experience this (or some other non-tactile reaction to hitting your head)?
posted by Bebo to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about common, but phantosmia is associated with brain injury.
posted by artlung at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2011

I've had that happen before. A real good knock to the head or a shoulder "stinger" in football practice would give me a taste in my mouth. Metallic, or *ahem* like a nine volt battery.
posted by sanka at 10:25 AM on June 20, 2011

Are you sure you weren't bleeding? Blood tastes coppery/metallic.
posted by axiom at 10:28 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anecdata - what axiom said. I've had tons of blows to the head and no taste/smell except when I was bleeding.
posted by anti social order at 10:31 AM on June 20, 2011

Response by poster: Ah, thank you Axiom, I meant to add that. No, I was definitely not bleeding when the sensation occurred.
posted by Bebo at 10:31 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: A real good knock to the head or a shoulder "stinger" in football practice would give me a taste in my mouth. Metallic, or *ahem* like a nine volt battery.

That taste usually coincides with a burst of adrenaline, not necessarily linked to injury.
posted by mikeh at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

A surge of adrenaline can cause a metallic/coppery taste in your mouth.
posted by goggie at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2011

Yup. It's happened to me a lot, I'm pretty accident prone. I get a smell/taste similar to blood but not exactly the same. I have no idea what causes it but I'm rarely bleeding when it happens.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2011

When I was a kid and got knocked around more, I had that sensation a couple of times. I always assumed it was some blood vessels way up in my nose or something that busted.

Provided you're not having it last beyond a minute or two, it's not an alarming indication by itself. (mind you, dizziness, inability to speak, loss of coordination, visual blurriness, memory, consciousness? Those are concussion symptoms - you definitely don't want those!)
posted by yeloson at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2011

for me it was a feeling that had taste and smell. I always associated it with pavement. It was like a smell I smelled with something behind my forehead
posted by Redhush at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2011

I bumped my head a few times as a kid. (Whoever decided crawlspaces were a good idea...)

Yep, coppery taste/smell, but no (external) blood.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:01 AM on June 20, 2011

Whoa! Yes! This happens to me whenever I hit my head, but whenever I try to explain it, people look at me like I'm crazy. One time, I had migraines for several days in a row, accompanied by that coppery taste/smell.
posted by chara at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I get that coppery taste too. It also happens to me during sudden surges of adrenaline. My first reaction when I hit my head is surprise. No one expects to hit their head, but I get the feeling of some kind of fight-or-flight thing activating very quickly to ramp up the sympathetic nervous system, like my midbrain is preparing to deal with conflict and is indiscriminately reacting to head trauma, regardless of of whether I hit my head on a cabinet door or got clocked from behind with an antelope femur. The feeling and taste fade almost immediately though.
posted by Bachsir at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2011

Absolutely. I don't associate it with adrenaline. Amongst the times I've done this, the one that stands out is where I stood up in a slanted roof attic, and hit my head so hard that I tasted metal.

Not sure if it was coppery in taste.
posted by filmgeek at 12:43 PM on June 20, 2011

I've had this countless times; from blows, falls, anger and intense fear. During one of the most intensely fearful occasions, when a huge wind storm blew me around a corner of rock as I was rappelling, so that I was 100ft from the ground instead of 10, and kept me there for 15 minutes, I happened to have a big wad of chewing gum in my mouth, and that gum dissolved completely within about 2 minutes, first to awful-tasting cardboardy shreds, then just thin liquid indistinguishable from saliva.

Since, I've wondered whether the taste is the enzyme which dissolved the gum, which presumably thins out the mucus to make breathing easier.
posted by jamjam at 2:28 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I hit my head hard, I get a "fishy" smell or taste - not coppery/metallic at all. Happened more often when I was a kid.
posted by The Toad at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2011

I've gotten something like what you describe when I've experienced some minor bump or even sudden movement to or of the head, especially if it was in the vicinity of my nose - I think it's momentary like that my guess for my own case has been that I broke open a capillary or just the sudden blood flow to the nose might have caused a bit of blood leakage through some of the tiny vessels in the mucus membranes, so that I'm smelling blood, even through there's not even enough to cause a real nosebleed. IANAD, YMMV, member FDIC.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2011

I know the taste you're talking about, but I've only experienced it in the moments when I'm catching my breath after a near-miss experience, like after slipping on a stair and barely avoiding a nasty fall. Never seen an explanation before but adrenaline sounds right to me. Pretty interesting!
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 4:21 PM on June 20, 2011

I tasted blood but was not bleeding - in my mouth or otherwise - when I knocked my head on the ground.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:51 PM on June 20, 2011

Are you sure you weren't bleeding? Blood tastes coppery/metallic.

I get this smell/taste/sensation also, and coppery/metallic is a good description of it, but it doesn't seem at all similar to the taste of blood from a cut lip, or a nosebleed, or anything like that.
posted by hattifattener at 9:12 PM on June 20, 2011

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