Loss of Taste and Smell: How to Get Your Sense of Taste & Smell Back After a Sinus Infection
If you cannot taste or smell the food right or a pungent smell is not bothering you, it is an alarming situation that needs to be determined. Also known as anosmia, loss of smell is caused by cold, flu or sinus, or something severe like COVID-19. Schedule an appointment with an experienced and board-certified otolaryngologist at the Century Medical and Dental Center to have your symptoms evaluated and to find out the reasons behind them. Even though they are mostly temporary, they can prevent you from dangerous situations and result in loss of interest in eating. The expert otolaryngology doctors use the right tools to get your sense of taste and smell back after a sinus infection and help you live a better quality of life.
Loss of Smell and Taste – How Does It Happen?
The nerves responsible for detecting smell, the olfactory nerves are located high and deep inside the nose. In case of a cold or sinusitis, the nose fills with mucus that blocks the nerve endings deep within the nose, which are responsible for sensing smells. Due to mucus and inflammation, the odors cannot reach the top of the nasal cavity resulting in total or partial loss of ability to smell or anosmia.
The loss of smell, in most cases, is directly related to the loss of taste. It is in rare cases that someone loses their sense of taste alone. As the two are closely related, people going through the condition also reported a loss of taste. The taste and smell buds are closely linked, and any irritants that cause swelling in the nasal passage can lead to loss of smell and taste.
There are several reasons for lost taste and smell, but most people get them back after the underlying causes are addressed. If your condition persists or you suspect that your lost senses are related to a more serious problem, contact your primary care doctor for complete diagnosis of what you are going through.
Covid-19 & Delta Variant – Similarities and Symptoms
Loss of taste and smell can be a common symptom with sinusitis, colds, and flu, but it is also one of the most common signs of the COVID-19. It still remains common, though less frequent with the Delta variant, and this makes it even tougher to determine if you are suffering from allergies, sinus issues, or a life-threatening virus like corona. Seek medical help to understand the difference between these conditions, and how to treat them timely.
What Causes Loss of Taste and Smell – How to Get It Back?
Colds, sinus infections, and general congestion are the most common causes of temporary loss of smell. In most cases, your sense of smell will return as the congestion clears up. While this is the most common culprit behind the loss of taste and smell there are plenty of other conditions too that can lead to this problem.
- Sinus infections
- Nasal polyps
- Certain medications
- Neurological conditions
- Trauma to the head
- Radiation therapy
- Over-exposure to certain chemicals
As the flu or cold clears up, your sense of smell and taste should return within a few days. You must remember that some viral infections could cause permanent damage to your sense of taste. It is a grave condition, and you must consult your primary care doctor if your sense of taste and smell does not return even after you have recovered from the cold or flu.
Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
The upper respiratory tract infections are the main reason behind the lost taste and smell during common colds and flu that result in nasal congestion. These infections are treated with over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicines, cough drops, and flu medicines.
Home remedies like nasal irrigations or nasal sprays are also effective for alleviating congestion.
Covid-19 & Loss of Taste and Smell
A large number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 reported a loss of taste and smell as a primary symptom. It could be related to congestion or swelling inside the nose, but the primary causes behind this phenomenon are not clear.
Loss of taste or smell can be a sign of COVD-19 even when no other symptoms are present. Consult your doctor about getting tested for the virus, or discuss your symptoms to know what you are suffering from. If you test positive, make sure to follow the guidelines for quarantine and take medications recommended for fever and pain during this condition.
For many COVID-19 patients, the sense of taste and smell gets back to normal, and the symptoms clear up once they start feeling better. There have been many people who experienced a long term loss of smell and taste. Research is underway to study the ongoing effects of COVID-19, what parts of the body or senses it affects and how.
Allergies can cause severe congestion in the nose that leads to loss of smell and taste. They can be cured with both over-the-counter and prescription medications, which include antihistamines, nasal sprays, allergy drops, and allergy shots.
As your allergies improve and the congestion diminishes, your sense of smell and taste should get back to normal.
Sinus infections lead to inflammation in the nose and as a result, nasal stuffiness. Many sinus infections cause either full or partial loss of smell and taste. Over-the-counter pain medications and prescription antibiotics can help to treat sinus infections.
Recurring sinusitis can be treated with a balloon sinuplasty procedure. As the symptoms improve, most people regain their sense of smell and taste. If you still feel unable to smell or taste even after the infection has receded, contact your doctor, as it may be some underlying condition causing the problem.
Nasal polyps are benign tissue growths that occur inside the nasal cavity. They are very small, but they can obstruct airflow in the nasal passage which leads to congestion, breathing issues, and sinus infections.
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as oral or nasal steroids, can reduce the size of your nasal polyps and help to relieve the symptoms. If your nasal polyps become large and do not improve with treatment, surgery may be the only solution to seek relief. Reducing their size or eliminating them from the nasal passage helps restore the sense of taste and smell.
Several medications are known to alter the sense of taste. These medications can make the food taste different, leaving a metallic, salty, or bitter taste in the mouth.
Such medications include:
- Allergy medicines
- Asthma medications
- Cholesterol medicines
- Blood thinners
- Seizure medications
The change in taste is usually temporary, and it improves when you stop taking the particular medication causing the reaction.
Many conditions that affect the brain are associated with loss of smell and taste, and the brain is responsible for processing these senses and ensuring their normal functioning. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases impact the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain where the smell nerve lies. A loss of smell could be an early sign of the disease.
It is essential to note that loss of smell does not mean that you are more vulnerable to these neurological conditions, but you should keep an eye on the symptoms to know what you are going through.
Many of our senses are affected as we grow old. Senses of smell and taste are sensitive, and some medical conditions can also affect them.
Factors that affect the sense of smell and taste in old age include:
- Dental problems
- Dry mouth
- Certain medications
- Alcohol consumption
- Less mucus production in the nose
- Loss of nerve endings
- Changes in taste buds
Some of these factors are a natural part of growing old, but many of them may result from various problems. Consulting your primary care doctor may help pinpoint the causes behind your lost sense of smell and taste and enable you to regain them.
According to health experts, smokers are six times more likely to have a poor sense of smell than non-smokers. Smoking can dull or kill your taste buds by altering the amount of blood flow to the taste buds. Quitting smoking or reducing exposure to smoke can improve smell and taste.
Head Injury or Trauma
The brain plays a crucial role in processing smell, and taste, and any injury to trauma to the brain can impact your senses for a limited time. If the olfactory nerves, the nerves in the brain responsible for processing smell, are damaged, you could experience a temporary or permanent loss of smell. With time and proper treatment, your senses of smell and taste could return to normal.
Radiation therapy targeted at the neck or back can damage the taste buds and salivary glands. It can result in reduced or complete loss of sense of taste. In most cases, these changes improve after the radiation therapy has ended, but sometimes the damage could be permanent.
Exposure to chemicals
Over-exposure to certain harsh chemicals like insecticides and solvents can burn the inside of your nose and cause permanent damage to the nasal tissue and smell sensors. This damage leads to loss of smell and affects the ability to taste.
Harmful chemicals include:
- Methacrylate vapors
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Sulfuric acid
When to See a Doctor?
If you have lost your sense of taste and smell due to a cold or sinus infection, it is not a matter of great concern. You will regain your lost faculties after a few days as the cold clears up. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you are not comfortable and want to have your condition looked up by an expert.
You should contact a specialist if you experience the following:
- Unexplained loss of smell and taste
- Sudden loss of smell and taste
- It has been a few days since you lost your olfactory and gustation
- Your condition is severe and does not seem to be improving
An expert otolaryngologist can evaluate your condition and determine the underlying cause of your problem. This process will include a lot of questions to know about your symptoms and onset. The specialist will also examine you physically, take your medical history and even suggest an x-ray, CT scan, or an MRI to learn more about the problem. In some cases, a nasal endoscopy may be the right way to look up inside the nose to see what is wrong.
After determining the causes behind your lost senses of smell and taste, the otolaryngologist will decide the treatment options. It may be something as simple as an over-the-counter decongestant or even a surgical procedure to remove obstructions that are the culprit.
If you are experiencing a loss of taste and smell and do not understand what may be causing it, consult an otolaryngologist to get your senses back without suffering from any inconveniences. There may be underlying issues that require medical attention, and only consulting a specialist at the Century Medical and Dental Center can help discover these issues and resolve them. The expert otolaryngology doctors work out if your loss of smell and taste is due to sinus or any other problem and treat it effectively to get you back to smelling and tasting like normal.