Smell loss is common

Not everyone who flunks a smell test has coronavirus. Any respiratory virus, such as cold or flu, will temporarily impact smell and taste, sometimes even permanently.

Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Erich Voigt said, “If you can smell ground coffee or coffee brewing, or if you can smell someone peeling an orange — that’s the smell sense.”

You have to be careful, though, because it’s easy to think you’re using your sense of smell when you’re not, Voigt said.

He explained, “Ammonia or cleaning solutions, those stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which is an irritant nerve…People will think, ‘Oh, I can smell Clorox, I can smell ammonia, which means I can smell.’ But no, that’s not correct. They’re not actually smelling, they’re using the trigeminal nerve.”

Besides cold and flu, other causes of smell loss include nasal polyps, tumors, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and traumatic brain injury or head trauma, including whiplash.

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