Temporary loss of taste and smell is usually caused by viral infections, although smell and taste disorders can be caused by other factors as well
Smell and taste are interrelated. Most of the time, your sense of smell affects your sense of taste. The most common causes of temporary loss of taste and smell are colds and flu.
Other causes include:
- Viral infections, such as:
- Head injury
- Fractures of facial bones
- Severe blow to the nose
- Nasal polyps
- Hay fever
- Certain medications
- Hormonal disturbances
- Cushing's syndrome
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Dental or mouth problems
- Cigarette smoking
- Constant exposure to certain chemicals, such as:
- Paint solvents
- Radiation therapy for head or neck cancer
- Cocaine addiction
Medical conditions that cause a complete lack of sense of smell or taste include:
What medications can affect taste and smell?
Medications that can affect your sense of taste and smell include:
- Antibiotics, such as:
- Medications for:
- Thyroid medicines
- Antihistamines (medications for cold and skin allergies)
- Anti-inflammatories (medications for joint and muscle pains)
- Antifungal medicines
What are smell and taste disorders?
Smell and taste disorders are conditions that result in a decreased, absent, or even distorted sense of taste and smell. Five out of 100 people suffer from one of these disorders.
The most common smell and taste disorders include:
- Anosmia: Complete lack of sense of smell.
- Hyposmia: Decreased sense of smell.
- Parosmia: Smells being different than normal.
- Phantosmia: Perception of smells that are not there.
- Ageusia: Loss of sense of taste.
- Hypogeusia: Reduced ability to taste sweet, sour, bitter, or salty things.
What are complications of smell and taste disorders?
Smell and taste disorders can affect your overall quality of life, affecting your ability to enjoy food and drink. In some cases, this can lead to depression.
Sometimes, smell and taste disorders can cause risks such as the inability to identify dangers such as fire, leaking gas, or spoiled foods.
How are smell and taste disorders treated?
Your doctor will try to identify the cause and treat you accordingly. Typical treatments include:
- Treating the underlying medical problem
- Stopping or substituting the medications that may be causing the problem
- Quitting smoking
- Surgery to help clear the structural abnormalities (such as nasal polyp removal)
When should you see a doctor?
It is normal to experience decreased or loss of sense of smell with a cold or flu. However, this problem usually goes away within 2 weeks. If the problem persists even after 2 weeks, or if the problem is unrelated to a viral infection, you should see a doctor.
Your doctor will take your medical history and ask about other signs and symptoms. They will likely refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.