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Can't taste or smell anything

I had a bad cold this week, and I'm mostly over it, though I still have a little sinus pressure and nose-blowing.

At this point, I can breathe through my nose well enough, but I still can't taste or smell ANYTHING. I'd put it at pretty much completely zero.

Anyone ever had this happen? I want to think it's just going to go away, but it's really freaking me out.

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  1. I've had that happen a few times and it's so weird!

    It'll go away eventually. Get well soon!

    1 Reply
    1. re: UTgal

      I hope so - nice to hear it's happened to someone else and gotten better!

    2. That's EXTREMELY common. No worries, it won't last.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        Thanks! It's nice to get some words of encouragement!

      2. That's something you'll want to check out with your doctor. It is possible for a virus to rob you of your sense of smell. And smell is closely associated with taste.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mcsheridan

          I figure I'll go to the doc when it's been a while longer, if there's no improvement. I'm sure the taste thing is a direct result of the smell loss, as you say, and I've found a lot online about viruses causing smell loss, so all that makes sense.

          I was just also looking for examples of temporary issues that resolved, to see if anyone had had that experience, as well. (And to try and make myself feel less anxious about it.)

          1. re: gildeddawn

            It is common. I recall someone posting a similar thread last fall, losing his/her smell and taste for a month or more but it came back eventually. Good luck. In the meantime, maybe it will be more enjoyable for you to eat textures you enjoy, like crunching on apples and salads.

        2. bit into a scotch bonnet chili pepper and report back.

          1. If you like spicy food, call your best local Thai place and tell them you've had a bad cold and a need a strong, hot Tom Yum soup -- ask for lots of ginger, lime and chili. Most Thai chefs know just how to tweak it for sick people. If you're doing take-out, heat it up and drink it as hot as you can stand once you get home. It will clear your sinuses and help get your taste buds going again.

            1. Like everyone else has said, this is pretty common with a cold or allergy issues. It is also a known side effect if you happened to treat your sickness with any zinc-containing medications.

                1. re: beevod

                  Or not, as the absence indicates. Hoping for the best for the OP.

                2. lol yes! It happened to me last year. I was smelling a bottle of eucalyptus oil and couldn't smell anything!! No taste either not even heat from chills it was insane. I was freaked the f out. Couple days later came back slowly.

                  1. My friend lost his sense of smell. Eventually went to the doctor and he now knows he's got two brain tumours. Surgery is scheduled for July.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Harters

                      ...although it's worth pointing out that in this case it's much more likely to be due to the cold than to brain tumors.

                    2. No change yet. Emailed the doc and she said to do a sinus rinse twice a day, and if it's not back in two weeks (!) she'll refer me to an ENT.

                      I hate waiting. And not tasting anything. I mean, first world problems, I guess, but, just like everyone on these boards - I really like food!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: gildeddawn

                        Not discounting the annoyance of losing taste and smell for a week or two, as someone who loves food... Just be grateful when you regain those senses, because there are people who lose them permanently (more or less), after a very bad round of those infections.

                        1. re: vil

                          Well, frankly, that's what I'm afraid might be happening. I hope to god it's not, but I guess I have to wait and see.

                          1. re: gildeddawn

                            AFAIK, unless you have a good reason to believe you have a compromised immune system that may result in taking much longer than average to recover (say, months instead of weeks), I believe you are fine. It is the infection in the sinuses that goes on for an extended period of time that causes the longer lasting, sometimes permanent, loss of smell.

                            Without worrying too much, it is still good advice to practise reasonable self-care to recover soon.

                      2. Yup. It lasted for a month or two for both myself and the husband. We've also previously had broken salt meters (we required about double the salt due to catching chikungunya) that lasted about a year and comes back every now and then.

                        It totally sucks. You have my sympathy.

                        1. I have been having the same issues. It has been two weeks and I am miserable. I feel like a visit to the ENT is in my future. I hope your sense of smell and taste return.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: fk0528

                            Let me know what happens - I still don't have mine back, either. I'm still having sinus symptoms, though, so I'm not ready to go to the ENT yet.

                            I feel your pain - and nobody seems to realize how horrible it is not to taste anything. But rest assured that, I, at least, do.

                            1. re: fk0528

                              I think we're in the same boat now - 16 days and I'm about to get an ENT referral from my doc. Definitely miserable.

                              1. re: gildeddawn

                                I totally understand the pain, but do not want to be accused of offering medical advice on a food forum ;-)

                                I am considering starting a thread on how to enjoy food despite a compromised sense of smell. There are a few things that can help somewhat.

                                1. re: vil

                                  Since this has happened to both my husband and I twice now (once for a year (and intermittently for weeks or a month or so at a time) with only our salt meter destroyed, once for a month or two with every taste gone), I'm interested. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens to us again. And again.

                                  1. re: vil

                                    Well, I wasn't really looking for medical advice - just anecdotal reports of similar situations.

                                    But yes, a thread on ideas for how best to cope with it, and what foods are relatively unaffected, might be helpful.

                                    1. re: gildeddawn

                                      I wasn't thinking about medical advice. I was thinking about ideas on how to cope with it better.

                                      When we had just the salt meter broken, we'd need about double the salt as everyone else. That was manageable - when other people would be eating the food I'd cook, I'd leave the salting to them entirely.

                                      But when we couldn't taste anything at all, it was miserable. There was *no* flavour of anything. No smell. Everything tasted like cardboard. That was awful. If there are ways of dealing with that better, I'm all ears. :)

                                      1. re: LMAshton

                                        I really meant "lifestyle advice that is not food-related" :-) You have my sympathy.

                                        My family doctor once told me to try eating lots of soup or broth made with meat and bones, to help getting over a tough cold. I was surprised at that time, coming from a doctor. That was years ago and turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice for that purpose.

                                        Lifestyle advice is best left to other sites:
                                        Look under Lifestyle and Nutrition.

                                        I promise I will say no more on that :-


                                        BTW what do you mean by a broken salt meter? Do you mean ability to taste saltiness? If so, that seems odd, because the basic tastes (salt, sweet, sour etc.) are typically unaffected by a lack of sense of smell.

                                        1. re: vil

                                          The husband and I both came down with chikungunya, which is a mosquito-borne illness similar to dengue fever. One of the rare but known side effects of chikungunya is that salt sensitivity changes. Both of us couldn't taste salt for a year. We needed twice as much salt - at least - for food to taste normal. Every now and then, it comes back, along with the bone pain. Symptoms from chikungunya coming back for years is common enough in adults.

                                          1. re: LMAshton

                                            I see, thanks. Such a strange disease. I learn something new every day!

                                    2. re: vil

                                      《I totally understand the pain, but do not want to be accused of offering medical advice on a food forum ;-)》

                                      Wow. The voice of reason is heard on a CH forum! I wish certain other posters shared your point of view. It's beyond tiresome at this point - posters who have admittedly no professional qualifications dispensing *medical* advice right and left.

                                      1. re: MrsPatmore

                                        Actually what I meant was, I was about to offer advice on self care that in my experience consistently helped with getting over sinus problems.. and then realize this is a community about food :-)

                                        I paid a big price before realizing that self care and food can contribute significantly to health and recovering from illnesses, and to me, these are as natural a part of my lifestyle as preparing food for sustenance and enjoyment. Sometimes it is hard to draw the line between these aspects.

                                        At CH, I notice that people are fine with discussion on food for sustenance and pleasure, but some have strong sentiments (either way) with discussion on food for health.

                                        1. re: vil

                                          I share your opinions about the connection between food and health! We are what we eat (literally). But, as you point out, this is a food forum. I really wish that the mods would do more to keep the free *medical* advice off this site. There are tons of other sites where those conversations can and should happen. CH isn't one of them IMHO.

                                    3. re: gildeddawn

                                      16 days? Oh my. I came back into this thread hoping for a "it cleared up in a few days!" updated. :-(

                                      Good luck at the doctor.

                                  2. I had this happen about a week ago when I ate a few tablespoons of raw galangal in the spirit of thoroughly understanding an ingredient. It lasted about three days and then started coming back gradually over the course of another three days. But it was really odd while it was gone - even drinking water was somehow unpleasant.

                                    1. In case anyone comes back to this thread, or finds it in search and wants an update:

                                      I'm sorry to report that, two months and two ENT appointments later, the situation is virtually unchanged - except that last week I also started experiencing "phantom smells" - in my case, a strong smell of cigarette smoke all the time. (That's pretty much gone after a few days, thank goodness.)

                                      The verdict from the ENT is that the bad cold I had has caused damage to my olfactory nerve. He said there's a possibility I may regain some or even most of the sensation, but there's also a good chance I won't. Apparently waiting six months before reevaluation is the usual procedure at this point. In other words, I've basically been told to wait and see, but not to get my hopes up.

                                      To anyone who's looking for comfort on this thread, I'm afraid I can't offer it to you. The rest of you - appreciate what you've got, because losing it is pretty devastating.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: gildeddawn

                                        I'm so sorry it's worked out that way. Sadly, the phenomena of phantom smells rarely involves daisies or peaches - it's the odd/nasty stuff that makes an appearance.

                                        Good of you to update here. I'm probably not the only one who's been checking in.

                                        1. re: gildeddawn

                                          Replying again 'cause it's too late to edit my previous. You might want to visit this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976023

                                          1. re: mcsheridan

                                            Thank you for the link - I appreciate both your kind words and your help.

                                          2. re: gildeddawn

                                            so sorry to hear things have yet to take a turn for the better.

                                            1. re: gildeddawn

                                              If you take a look at the link mcsheridan posted above, you'll see my post on my experience with anosmia. I think I can offer some comfort. My anosmia lasted a year, but once my sense of smell returned, and it did, it returned for good. Don't give up hope yet. Yes, it's devastating while you're experiencing it, but there's good reason to believe it won't be permanent.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                I hope you're right, and that it comes back eventually. I'm glad yours did, and I'm sure it was a huge relief.

                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                  Can I also ask - when your sense of smell and taste came back, was it gradual or fast? In other words, how long, from some improvement, did it take to return to its current level?

                                                  1. re: gildeddawn

                                                    As I mentioned in that other post, I was just walking down the street and suddenly smelled garlic coming from a pizza parlor. Once that happened, my sense of taste returned quite quickly. Don't remember exactly, since this was about 10 year ago now. But I don't recall it being a long, drawn out process. It was suddenly gone, and then fourteen months later it was almost as suddenly back.

                                                    1. re: gildeddawn

                                                      Interesting how experiences can be so different.

                                                      I was told mine was from nerve damage too, and once the offending infection was eliminated, my sense of smell started coming back as predicted by the ENT. But for me, it had been a painfully slow process, with some smells coming back much faster than others (nasty smells such as cigarette smoke and perfume!) It has been 3 years, some of the food smells are somewhat back while others are barely.

                                                  2. re: gildeddawn

                                                    That just royally sucks. I'm so sorry. :(