Data Max


Coping with Loss of Smell and Taste

Table of Contents

The sense of smell and taste provides us with the ability to enjoy food, smells, and even pleasant memories and emotions. Unfortunately, the loss of these senses can have a significant impact on our lives. It can occur due to various reasons, including COVID-19, head injuries, medication, and aging. It can also result in nutritional deficiencies and affect mental health due to depression and lack of appetite. Coping with the loss of smell and taste can be challenging, but there are ways to manage and improve the situation. In this article, we will discuss different coping strategies and preventive measures to manage the loss of these senses.

Understanding the Importance of Smell and Taste

The senses of smell and taste work together to provide humans with a unique perception of the world. The sense of smell is an essential part of the body's olfactory system, which is responsible for detecting and processing smells. It plays a crucial role in our bodies, including the ability to identify toxins, communicate with others, and even shape our memories.

Working in conjunction with the sense of smell, the sense of taste is responsible for identifying and experiencing the different flavors of food and drink. The taste receptors in the mouth are responsible for identifying each of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory). Together, the senses of smell and taste help us perceive and enjoy the flavors of our favorite foods and drinks.

Aromatherapy is a medicinal practice that uses essential oils and aromatic plant extracts to alleviate physical and emotional health issues. Some scents such as peppermint oil and eucalyptus can help with respiratory problems. At the same time, they can also evoke feelings of well-being and calmness. Burning scented candles or incense sticks can help create a calm and soothing atmosphere at home or in the workplace.

Smell and taste are some of life's essential pleasures. Understanding them, their importance, and their link with aromatherapy are key to coping with their loss.

Causes of the Loss of Smell and Taste

Many factors can lead to the loss of smell and taste. Some of the common causes are:

  • Age: As we age, the sensitivity of our senses decreases, and that includes our sense of smell and taste.
  • Medications: Certain medications can affect the olfactory system and lead to the loss of smell and taste, such as antibiotics, blood pressure drugs, and antidepressants.
  • Head injuries: Trauma to the head can damage the olfactory nerves and cause the loss of smell and taste.
  • Infections: Sinus infections, common cold, and flu can cause a temporary loss of smell and taste.
  • Exposure to toxins: Prolonged exposure to toxic substances can damage the olfactory system and affect our sense of smell and taste.

COVID-19's Impact on the Senses

One of the most alarming causes of the loss of smell and taste is COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen a growing number of cases where people infected with COVID-19 experience a sudden and complete loss of smell and taste without any other symptoms. This loss has become one of the most reliable indicators of COVID-19, and it can be a long-lasting symptom for some individuals.

Different Degrees of Loss of Smell and Taste

It is also essential to understand that the loss of smell and taste can vary in severity. It can range from a partial loss, where you can still detect certain smells and tastes, to complete loss, where you cannot sense any smell or taste at all. In some cases, the loss may be temporary and resolve on its own, while in other cases, it can be permanent and require medical intervention. Identifying the severity and duration of the loss is crucial in determining the best course of treatment for individuals experiencing smell and taste loss.

Coping Strategies for the Loss of Smell and Taste

Losing the sense of smell and taste can be frustrating, but there are strategies that can help cope with the loss of these senses. Here are some ways to help regain enjoyment in eating and life in general:

Dietary changes and nutritional supplements

Eating is less enjoyable when one can't taste or smell their food. Adding extra seasonings, spices, and herbs to meals might make them taste better. Additionally, taking supplements such as zinc, vitamin B12, and fish oil can enhance taste and smell. However, confirm with a nutritionist or doctor for appropriate doses.

Use of scent kits and aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can have positive effects on one's sense of smell. Essential oils that have the fragrance of, for example, lavender, rose, or peppermint, are known to promote relaxation and can aid in controlling anxiety, improving mood, and improving sleep. In contrast, using scent kits or aroma diffusers with food-related scents such as vanilla or cinnamon might help bring out some flavors in foods.

Discuss the healing process

Understand the healing process, acknowledge that it might take time, and set expectations accordingly. Sensory systems are complex and extremely sensitive, and it may take months for them to recover entirely.

While coping strategies might help, it's essential to remember that managing a sense of smell and taste loss might need professional guidance. Seek support from a medical professional for a proper diagnosis, an appropriate care plan, and recovery expectations. Remember, it's important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet despite one's loss, seek emotional support, and acknowledge that these senses might change over time.

Prevention and Treatment of the Loss of Smell and Taste

The loss of our sense of smell and taste can have significant impacts on our quality of life. Therefore, it is essential to take preventative measures to protect our senses and seek medical help when necessary. Here are some beneficial tips for preventing the loss of sense of smell and taste:

  • Quit smoking: Smoking harms the nasal passages and can lead to a loss of olfactory function.
  • Wear PPE: During the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing masks and other personal protective equipment can help prevent infection and subsequent loss of smell and taste.
  • Avoid pollutants: Limiting exposure to allergens, pollution, and toxic chemicals can prevent nasal damage and the loss of senses.

Regaining the loss of the sense of taste and smell is challenging and may require medical intervention. Some treatment options include:

  • Medications: Depending on the cause of the loss of smell and taste, some medications may help regain or improve these senses.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove nasal polyps or repair damage in the nasal cavity.
  • Smell training: Smell training involves repeated regular exposure to different scents to help revive a diminished sense of smell.

It is crucial to seek medical help if you experience persistent loss of the sense of smell and taste. Early detection aids in the prompt treatment of underlying causes, which improves the chances of recovery. Seeking treatment not only helps to improve your taste and smell abilities but also prevents further emotional and nutritional impacts on overall health.

Remember, prevention is always the best approach. Taking good care of your nasal and overall health will help protect your senses. Urgently seek help if you have persistent symptoms of scent and taste loss.


In conclusion, coping with the loss of sense of smell and taste can be challenging, but with the right strategies, it is possible. As we discussed in this article, the olfactory system plays a crucial role in our overall health, and losing it could have emotional, mental, and nutritional consequences.

It is crucial for individuals experiencing a loss of these senses to seek medical attention and get expert advice. While some causes are temporary, others may be more severe and require treatment. Coping strategies discussed in this article, including dietary changes, scent kits, and aromatherapy, can help make the process less difficult.

Lastly, we want to encourage our readers not to give up hope. Losing the sense of smell and taste can be frustrating, but the brain has the ability to adapt to new sensory experiences. With patience, time, and the right resources, the sense of smell and taste can be regained or improved over time.


1. What are the common causes of the loss of sense of smell and taste?

Common causes include age, medication, head injuries, and viral infections such as COVID-19.

2. Can the loss of sense of smell and taste affect mental health?

Yes, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal.

3. How can I cope with the loss of sense of smell and taste?

You can try dietary changes and nutritional supplements, use scent kits and aromatherapy, and seek emotional support.

4. Can the loss of sense of smell and taste be prevented?

Sometimes it can be prevented by avoiding exposure to irritants and chemicals that can damage the olfactory system.

5. Is it important to seek medical help for the loss of sense of smell and taste?

Yes, it is important to seek medical help to determine the cause of the loss and receive appropriate treatment.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top