How to reset my sense of smell? (encountered a smoker earlier)
September 22, 2022 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I went in to get my eyeglasses adjusted earlier, and the person doing the adjustments at the office was in close proximity to me (near my face, etc) to do the adjustments. He reeked of cigarette smoke. Hours later, I still smell remnants of the smoke, even though I was only with him for ~15-20 minutes. How do I "reset" my smell sense to get rid of this smell?

I changed my clothes, cleaned my eyeglasses thoroughly with alcohol wipes, washed my hands, even put on my old eyeglasses for a while. Nothing helped. Every now and then, I continue to feel a "recurring" smell in my nose of the cigarette smoke. Nobody is smoking near me, it smells fine here and outdoors. It's just "stuck" in my nose.

Any ideas how I can reset my sense of smell somehow to get rid of this sensation? Yes, I know, I am highly sensitive to odors.

posted by dubious_dude to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was listening to someone talk about resetting a sense of smell after losing it to Covid-19. They suggested picking something strong smelling that you like, say ground coffee, or a soap scent you enjoy, or a strong scented rose etc., and sniffing it for a period of time, say 10 minutes, 3 times a day. It's quite possible that your sense of smell was 'programmed' by the smoker's scent, so reprogramming it might help.
posted by Thella at 2:03 PM on September 22 [6 favorites]

Have you showered? Back when I was in college you could still smoke inside in bars and whenever I would get home (however many hours later) a “poof” of cigarette smoke would come off me whenever I showered.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:06 PM on September 22 [20 favorites]

In addition to sniffing one thing repeatedly, you could start with a quick olfactory tour, smell each of your herbs and spices, all your cleaners, whatever you have as long as it's not too unpleasant.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:07 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

I always feel like my hair holds onto smoke, if that's relevant to you.
posted by ghost phoneme at 2:27 PM on September 22 [9 favorites]

Have a shower, wash your hair. I always have to after visiting my parent's house, where my mom is a smoker, in order to be completely rid of the smell.
posted by cgg at 2:35 PM on September 22 [4 favorites]

If showering and hair-washing doesn't work -- and it probably won't -- I would flush your sinuses with sterile saline solution - like a neti pot, but boil the water first to make sure there are no microorganisms in it.

I have done this just using a regular drinking glass, closing one nostril at a time. Make sure the water is at exactly the right temperature -- start with just a little bit at a time.

Probably worth reading these instructions.

You can even do this in the shower.
posted by amtho at 2:37 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]

A lot of stores that sell perfumes or fragrance related stuff keep jars of coffee beans to smell as a "reset" for your sense of smell. Maybe try a shower and then smelling some if you have any available!
posted by carlypennylane at 2:47 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]

I bet washing your hair will get it. If you can't, I'm sorry to say my best suggestion is to smell something else that smells strong or use some strong smelling hand lotion on your hands and face.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:06 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]

Also! Drink lots of water.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:06 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Definitely sniff coffee beans, whole or very freshly ground. It does really work!
posted by Grim Fridge at 3:35 PM on September 22

Response by poster: I got a tea bag and opened it, and kept sniffling it occasionally. It seemed to do the trick and helped to "reset/deprogram" my sense of smell.

@Thella, that's fascinating — do you happen to have a link so I can learn more about that?

(To answer others' questions, no, I did not shower. Prefer to do once a day to avoid drying out my skin, and I always shower right before bed.)
posted by dubious_dude at 4:01 PM on September 22

Do a neti pot rinse.

Or wash inside your nostrils. I sometimes wet my pinky fingertips, lather them with a tiny bit of mild soap, and rub them inside my nostrils. Then rinse my hands and rub my wet fingertips in there a few times, rinsing my hands between each rub, to dilute out the soap bubbles til I feel the soap is all gone.

Wash the glasses with soap completely.

Wash your face and concentrate on all parts of your head that your glasses touch - temples, nose bridge, eyebrows, and behind your ears - he probably touched the earpieces and arms and bridge of the glasses so a bit of the scent may have transferred onto the glasses and then onto your skin in those areas.

Beyond all that... what you smell may actually be in your head, not your nose? I say that with kindness. It could be "scentophobia" rather than actual scent.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:08 AM on September 23

d_d, here is an article that discusses olfactory training.
posted by Thella at 9:03 PM on September 24

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