Recovered sense of smell?
August 30, 2005 9:18 AM   Subscribe

olfactory filter: I just got over a nasty flu and seem to have recovered an acute sense of smell. I haven't been able to smell stuff in years, and it is starting to freak me out. Everything online discusses loss and neurological problems... have I lost my mind? Regained it?
posted by sgarst to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Boing linked once to a capsicum spray that was supposed to have similar effects.
posted by craniac at 10:02 AM on August 30, 2005

IANAPhysiologist, but I have an unusually acute sense of smell (always have). I do know that the sense of smell is one that the mind plays around with. For example, if you are exposed to a smell for an extended period of time -- say, 20 or 30 minutes -- your brain will start to ignore the constant, identical reports coming from your olfactory nerve. In other words, you'll stop consciously smelling whatever the stiumuls is. This is why we are unable to smell our own perfumes and other scented products -- they're on us all day, and we just stop noticing. Also why people with BO are sometimes oblivious.

So maybe your sense of smell just seems stronger, because now that it's returned you are being bombarded with what your brain has decided are new stimuli demanding attention. If this is true, it'll probably fade.

On the other hand, maybe you are like the guy in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. The guy had a drug flashback (I think) in which he thought he was a dog. Upon recovering, he found that he had the sense of smell of a dog. He could pick up a newspaper and smell all the people who had handled it. He could tell when someone had been in a room even if he entered after they left. Apparently this went on for about 3 weeks, then faded.
posted by Miko at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2005

I can't explain it, but I had a similar episode a number of years ago with my sense of taste. For about a week, my tongue swelled up to where I could barely talk (and when I did, I sounded like something like Corkey from Life Goes On) and my sense of taste went away. When it healed up, I was much more sensitive to flavors and the effects of capsicum were such that mild salsa about killed me (where as I usually ask for/make my vindaloo as spicy as the natives would take it).

So, I'd say that your's is not an isolated experience and that you are not crazy.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 11:53 AM on August 30, 2005

Lack of a sense of smell is called anosmia just by the by. I wonder if you were taking any medications while you were sick? Anything with steroids (sprays or tablets such as cortisone) particularly? I only ask because, although this is obviously something less than common, in googling around I saw mention a few times that steroids are sometimes used to help treat the loss of smell. I would feel lucky if I were you -- food will become much more inviting I suspect.
posted by peacay at 12:01 PM on August 30, 2005

You know, I got my senses of smell and taste back after quitting smoking. On the whole, I find that it's not such a great thing. I can smell all the bad smells in the environment now, and I find that I have to eat higher-quality food (I can't stand the taste of fast food anymore, whereas while I smoked, it was fine.)
posted by gokart4xmas at 1:07 PM on August 30, 2005

Hey sgarst,

It's possible that as part of you getting over your flu you've re-opened some sinus passages which had been closed for a long time. Your un-used and newly recovered sense of smell might be sensative at first. Count your lucky stars, many people have lost their sense of smell (and consequently much of taste) forever. You just got yours back!
posted by daver at 3:32 PM on August 30, 2005

There have been unsubstantiated claims that zinc nose sprays cause loss of smell. The guy that did the research shorted Zicam stock, however, so...
posted by mecran01 at 8:16 PM on August 30, 2005

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