Taste and smell work together to make food more enjoyable or to warn you when it has gone bad.
Over 200,000 Trusted Source patients seek treatment for taste or odor issues each year. These senses are so intertwined that what appears to be a loss of taste is a loss of smell, and true taste loss (ageusia) is uncommon.
Many conditions can impair taste but usually return once the underlying cause is addressed. Taste loss may indicate COVID-19 or another viral infection, which can linger even after the infection has cleared.
Depending on the underlying cause, loss of taste may resolve on its own or by treating the underlying cause. Meanwhile, resist the urge to add extra sugar or salt to your food. Experiment with different foods, herbs, and spices.
Please continue reading to learn about some of the causes of taste and smell loss and how to regain it.
Here are the Possible Causes
People with COVID-19 frequently report a change or loss of taste.
Researchers discovered in an April 2021 study Trusted Source that in a group of 200 people with mild to moderate COVID-19:
- 7% have lost their sense of taste (but not smell)
- 4% of people have lost their senses of smell and taste.
- 4.5 percent of people have lost their sense of smell (but not taste)
Everyone who had lost their taste had it restored within 14 days. Except for two people who developed long-term loss of smell, people who lost their sense of smell regained it within 21 days
In a review of studies, researchers discovered that impairment of taste or smell frequently occurred before other COVID-19 symptoms.
Very few people may experience long-term loss or change in taste.
It’s not entirely clear why COVID-19 can affect your taste. However, researchers discovered that the epithelial cells in your mouth, including taste bud cells, contain angiotensin-converting enzyme receptors (ACE2). These receptors allow the virus that causes COVID-19 to enter cells.
Cough, fever, and fatigue are also COVID-19 symptoms. Breathing difficulties or chest pain indicate a medical emergency.
Even without other symptoms, loss of taste may indicate COVID-19, so consult a doctor or sign up for a test with a community provider. Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest if you test positive. Use over-the-counter (OTC) medications for fever and pain.
2. Upper Respiratory Infection
Any upper respiratory tract infection can impair your sense of taste. The common cold and influenza are upper respiratory tract infections that can cause nasal congestion, coughing, and sneezing. The flu can also cause fever.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source, changes in taste or smell are more common with COVID-19 than with the flu; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.
Cold and flu symptoms are treated with the following medications:
- cough medicines and throat lozenges
- prescription flu medicines
Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections such as the common cold or flu. They are effective against bacterial infections such as strep throat and some ear infections.
As the infection clears, you should regain your sense of taste. Some viral infections can permanently impair taste.
3. Allergies and Sinus Issues
Allergies and sinus infections can cause inflammation and congestion, impairing smell and taste. Sinus infections are treated with the following medications:
- nasal rinses or sprays
- OTC pain medications
- As other symptoms improve, most people gradually regain their sense of smell and taste.
4. Polyps in the Nose
Nasal polyps are small, painless bumps that develop in the nasal passages or sinuses. They are caused by chronic inflammation linked to:
- recurring infection
- immune disorders
- drug sensitivities
Aside from the loss of taste and smell, other symptoms may include:
- stuffiness, runny nose
- facial pain and pressure
- upper tooth pain
- frequent nosebleeds
rhinosinusitis had taste loss. Approximately 60% of those in the study had chronic rhinosinusitis with polyps.
You can reduce nasal polyps with medications prescribed by a doctor. You can surgically remove polyps, but they can return.
5. Several Medications
Some medications can change or impair your sense of taste. These are some examples:
- psychotropic medications
- bladder medications
- cholesterol-lowering medications
- blood pressure medications
- Some medications cause dry mouth, making it difficult to taste food.
If your medication appears to be affecting your taste, don’t stop taking it until you’ve discussed alternatives with your doctor. Meanwhile, try to keep your mouth moist.
6. Cancer Therapy
Chemotherapy and radiation to the head or neck can both change or impair your sense of taste. This usually goes away after you finish treatment. In the meantime, here are some other options:
- Consume cold foods, which may be more flavorful than hot foods.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Brush your teeth both before and after you eat.
- Inquire with your doctor about products that may help with dry mouth.
- Mints, gum, and plastic utensils instead of metal can help with a metallic taste.
7. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
People with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, may experience a loss of smell and taste. Other factors that contribute to eating and nutritional problems include:
- trouble recognizing food
- difficulty going through the steps of eating a meal
Switching to different medications where possible may be beneficial, but taste loss caused by dementia and aging is unlikely to improve significantly. A registered dietitian can assist with meal planning and nutritional advice.
8. Deficiencies in Nutrition
Some nutritional deficiencies may impair your sense of taste. Zinc, for example, is essential for your senses of taste and smell. A normal, varied diet should provide you with adequate zinc. Zinc can be found in various foods, including chicken, red meat, fortified breakfast cereals, and many others.
Women require 8 milligrams per day, while men require 11 milligrams.
Dependable source If you suspect you may be deficient in zinc, consult your doctor about your diet and whether you should take a supplement. Take supplements only after consulting with a doctor.
9. Dental Issues
Anything that affects the mouth can certainly affect your sense of taste, such as:
- wisdom tooth extraction
- gum disease
- inadequate oral hygiene
Consult a dentist if you have any other dental symptoms, such as mouth pain, swelling, or a bad taste in your mouth. Treating the problem’s source should aid in restoring your sense of taste. Regular dental visits and daily brushing and flossing are all part of good oral hygiene.
It’s not uncommon to gradually lose your sense of smell and taste as you age. However, completely losing your sense of taste is not normal. Consult a doctor about your loss of taste and any other symptoms you are experiencing. Identifying and treating the cause may help you regain your taste.
11. Chemical exposition
Exposure to high levels of certain chemicals may contribute to taste loss. High pesticide exposure, for example, can cause long-term impairment of your sense of smell and taste.
12. Trauma to the Head
A head injury can cause you to lose your sense of smell and taste. The location and extent of the injury determine how long it lasts and how it is treated.
Taste changes or a loss of taste can be symptoms of:
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism)
Although this is not always the case, symptoms may improve as the underlying condition is treated.
Other possible causes include:
- drinking alcohol
- burning your tongue
If you stop smoking and drinking alcohol or your tongue heals from a burn, your taste may improve. Quitting smoking can be difficult, but a doctor can assist you in developing a viable plan.
When to Consult a Doctor?
You will likely lose your sense of taste while suffering from a cold, allergies, or the flu. However, it may be a sign of a more serious condition in some cases. If it continues for an extended period, it can lead to under or overeating, malnutrition, and a lower quality of life.
Consult a doctor if your loss of taste extends beyond a recent bout of congestion or illness, appears unexpectedly, or is accompanied by other symptoms.
A doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, if necessary.
What are Some Home Remedies to Get Back your Taste and Smell Back?
Castor seed oil
Squeeze one drop of warm castor oil into each nostril. For the best results, repeat the procedure twice daily, and this practice is beneficial in reducing inflammation.
A cup of water should contain 2 to 3 chopped garlic pods. In a saucepan, bring the ingredients to a boil. When the mixture has cooled completely, strain it and drink it. Garlic compounds’ anti-inflammatory properties can aid in treating a stuffy nose.
In a glass of water, combine lemon and honey. This mixture is ready to drink right away, and this drink has a strong citrusy aroma. These two ingredients’ properties can aid in the restoration of taste and smell.
Take a peeled piece of ginger and chew it slowly.” Begin chewing the ginger at regular intervals. If you can’t chew the ginger directly, drink ginger tea, and do this daily. Ginger has a strong aroma that can enhance your senses of smell and taste.
In a cup of water, combine ten peppermint leaves. In a saucepan, bring the ingredients to a boil. Once the solution has cooled, strain it and add some honey to it. Drink it right away. Menthol is the primary constituent of peppermint leaves, and it has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can affect your sense of smell and taste.
Drink plenty of water
Drinking plenty of water aids in the removal of an unwanted cough. Water helps to keep the body hydrated, and this can help to avoid odor and taste issues.
Identifying the Root Cause
The diagnosis begins with a discussion of your symptoms, a review of your medical history, and a physical examination of your ears, nose, and throat. An ENT doctor may ask you to taste and compare various items to assess the extent of your taste problems.
This will aid in determining the cause or the next steps in the diagnostic process.
How do I Deal with Odour Loss?
It can be difficult to cope when you lose your sense of smell. In the brain, smell and emotion are inextricably linked. It is critical to consult your doctor if you are experiencing overwhelming and negative emotions.
How can I Regain My Sense of Smell?
In most cases, the sense of smell recovers on its own, but it can take months or even years in some cases.
You can help yourself by educating yourself. Read up on your specific type of smell loss and keep an eye out for new research.
Keeping a smell sensation diary will help you notice changes in how you perceive smells.
Try not to think of yourself as regaining your ‘normal’ sense of smell. Normal is highly subjective, and smell tests frequently reveal that a patient has a better – or worse – sense of smell than they believe.
Don’t give up on asking for assistance. A diary can help you track your progress and is useful when meeting with healthcare professionals.
Nothing Tastes Good to me. Have I Lost *Both* my Senses of Smell and Taste?
To recognize what is happening, it is necessary to understand the technical definitions and differences between taste and smell experiences:
True taste refers to sensations on our tongue and in our mouth, such as salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory (umami). These basic tastes, as well as creaminess, have receptors on the tongue. We can feel these sensations even in the absence of smell. Most people who have lost their sense of smell can still tell the difference between sugar and salt, for example.
The smell occurs when we sniff something (ortho-nasal olfaction) or chew food, and the molecules responsible for the smell waft up the back of our throat.
The flavor combines true taste (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory) and retro-nasal olfaction. And it is a flavor that is lost when the smell is lost. Because flavor occurs in the mouth, people mistakenly believe that their sense of taste has vanished; however, most people who suffer from smell loss retain their full sense of taste.
The sense of taste is inextricably linked to the sense of smell, and both are required to appreciate food fully.
Allergies, colds, and influenza are just a few of the things that can mess with your taste. As other symptoms fade, normal taste usually returns.
Consult a doctor if you have a persistent loss of taste, whether or not you have other symptoms. It could be a symptom of something more serious, and COVID-19 is also associated with a loss of taste.
Treating the underlying cause can help you regain control of your taste buds.