Friday, January 14, 2011

My Sad, Sad Sniffer

When I learned about the five senses as a child, I remember comparing the relative enjoyment I derived from each one.  I remember thinking that as much as I enjoyed them all, I would miss my sense of smell the least.

That assertion is being tested in my life today.  You see, I have mostly lost my sense of smell.

It's not being blocked by nasal congestion.  I can breathe just fine.  But, when I inhale, my sniffer fails to register some portion of the scents in the air.

It has been a gradual process, but over time, I have been able to smell less and less.  I first noticed that I could not smell diaper odors very well when Vinny was still in diapers, but I just attributed it to olfactory adaptation.  Instead, I am afraid I am developing anosmia.

The severity of my affliction was underscored the other day when I started to eat some leftovers.  They smelled fine to me, but when I took a bite, I could tell that something was not quite right.  They tasted a little bitter.  So I asked Jeff to check it for me.  One whiff and disgusted fanning of his nose later, he informed me that the food smelled so rotten that there was no way it could have even made it into his mouth.  Thank goodness he was there to save me from certain food poisoning!

It's interesting, because there are lots of things I can still smell.  Skunk, body odor, hydrogen sulfide, and a host of other unpleasant odors are still quite vivid to me.  I can also smell some pleasant scents such as citrus, cinnamon, baking bread, and lavender.  I can smell some of the components of eucalyptus, and have relearned how to identify it.  And, on the bright side, I am almost completely immune to the smell of urine (I can detect that there is a scent but I can't tell what it is).*  But whatever was rotten in that food, I completely missed it, and this frightens me greatly.  Had I been alone the other day, I might have eaten those leftovers and made myself quite sick.**  And I probably would have just thought I had the flu or something, since that food had only been in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.

Other than that, though, the loss of my sense of smell has not been that traumatic.  So, maybe I knew what I was talking about.

* The other day I could smell something on Vinny's sleeper, and when I asked him about it he said he had dribbled a little urine on it.  So, I can detect urine but it no longer has that unpleasant, acrid smell I recall from the past.

** Maybe I need a personal food taster!


EcoGeoFemme said...

Does it impact your sense of taste or appetite?

Rebecca said...

Since it was a gradual process I don't think it has affected my appetite, but it has changed my sense of taste. For example, I was annoyed tonight when they served my hamburger with mustard (a condiment I have never liked), but I discovered that I don't really mind mustard so much anymore. It just tastes sour to me. So I'm thinking I should try more foods that I didn't used to like -- maybe I will like them!

rachel said...

And you can't attribute it to a particularly nasty virus or some other nasal trauma (like picking it too much, ha ha ha)? Because when I lost mine, it was sudden and right after a cold -- people often lose smell during a cold, and mine just never came back. Mine has been steadily improving over the years. It's still not what it once was, but it's serviceable. I have never mistakenly eaten bad food.

It might not be a crazy idea to consult a doctor. If you can't point to a known cause, there may be some unknown (and treatable) cause. People do simply lose their sense of smell, but I think you're pretty young for that to just happen.

Rebecca said...

I had a physical today, and mentioned my sense of smell (or lack thereof) to the doctor. She is going to refer me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.