A change in your sense of smell can be unpleasant and affect how things taste. But it isn’t usually serious and may get better in a few weeks or months.
Causes of lost or changed sense of smell
Changes in sense of smell are most often due to:
- a cold or flu
- sinusitis (sinus infection)
- an allergy – like hay fever
- growths in your nose (nasal polyps)
These can cause:
- loss of smell (anosmia)
- smelling things that aren’t there (phantosmia), like smoke or burnt toast
- reduced sense of smell (hyposmia)
- the smell of things to change (parosmia)
Cleaning inside your nose can help
Rinsing the inside of your nose with a salt water solution may help if your sense of smell is affected by an infection or allergy.
You can make a salt water solution at home.
See a GP if your sense of smell doesn’t go back to normal in a few weeks
They’ll check for any obvious causes, such as sinusitis or nasal polyps.
They may refer you to a specialist for tests if they’re not sure what the problem is.
Treatment for lost or changed sense of smell
Your sense of smell may go back to normal in a few weeks or months.
Treating the cause might help. For example, steroid nasal sprays or drops might help if you have sinusitis or nasal polyps.
A treatment called “smell training” can also help some people. The organisation Fifth Sense has more about how to do smell training.
Sometimes changes in sense of smell can’t be treated and may be permanent.