Paper flowers

Losing my sense of smell just ruined gorgonzola cheese.

So… The most blog-able thing I’ve done recently was to lose my sense of smell.

Not quite sure when it happened. Maybe last weekend. Do you know what’s really hard? Wracking your brains trying to think when you last remember smelling something. Seriously, try it — see, now you’re also wondering if you haven’t smelt anything for weeks.

But I like to think it was fairly recent, because surely I wouldn’t have gone very long in Italy of all places without noticing I couldn’t smell. The spectrum of smells here ranges from delicately scented pastries right through to the dog poo on the street near my office, and I want to believe I’d notice their absence. Maybe? I hope? But smell is kinda weird and subconscious; I know I’d never paid attention to it until this week.

But on Tuesday night, I notice something’s a bit off. I don’t have a blocked nose but I’m not smelling an everything’s-ok-background-smell, I’m smelling nothing. So I head into the kitchen and start pulling spices out of the cupboard and sniffing at them.

Cinnamon? Nup.

Rosemary? Nup.

Coffee? Surely I can smell coffee? Nup.

Ooh I know, vinegar. This is the big guns. Nothing. Then a second later, the feeling of the acid hitting the back of my nose.

I’m not liking the outcome of this experiment.

Of course, denial is one of the strongest forces in nature so later in the week I drop into Eataly on my way home from work and head down to the cheese and ham cellars. These, I know, should smell. I stick my head in the doorway of the ham room.

Nothing.

I don’t even try the cheese room.


As it turns out, losing your sense of smell is a well-known side effect of head injury.

All part of the fun then.

Treatment options are: 1. Wait and see if your smell comes back. 2. Yeah, waiting and seeing is all there is, sorry.

Fortunately, in many cases it’s not permanent, and I’m not even totally sure if I’ve completely lost my sense of smell or just mostly lost it. In the mean time, the pros and cons  that I see are:

Pros:

  • No stinky public bathrooms
  • If I still can’t smell in summer, no stinky urine on the street
  • No stinky buses
  • I have a packet of herbal tea that’s sat next to my desk at work for a year because I liked the smell but not the taste. Now I can’t smell it, the taste is bland but pleasant, and I can finally use it up.

Cons:

  • No cooking smells (maybe this is a pro because last summer I got horrible dinner-smell-envy of my neighbours in my apartment block)
  • Without smell, gorgonzola is just soft cheese and Russian Caravan tea is just tea
  • No flowers/grass/garden smells generally
These flowers make me super-happy, though.

These flowers make me super-happy, though.

In the end, I’m standing by my answer to the old icebreaker question: which sense would you rather lose if you have to lose one? Smell, totally. At least in my life, there’s not many situations where I need smell.

But I am hoping this is a temporary thing. I’m sure I’ll get used to this new normal for however long it lasts, but there is a feeling of missing out, a background thought of “I wonder if something smells good right now?”

Finally, to (in slightly poor taste) paraphrase Oscar Wilde: To lose one’s sense of sight/hearing/touch/taste may be regarded as misfortune; to lose smell looks like carelessness. (Sorry, but it’s what’s popped into my head every time in the past few days I’ve said, “I think I’ve lost my sense of smell”!)

Update, 20 June 2015: Since “how’s your sense of smell?” is a question I get fairly frequently, I thought I’d update here as well — at the moment, I can smell some things, like dishwashing liquid and my cups of tea. Other things, I can smell but the scent isn’t correct, eg, coffee I can smell from across a room, but the scent is more like that of deep fryer oil. I’m taking all this to mean my sense of smell is coming back, it will just take some time for everything to sort itself out.

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11 thoughts on “Losing my sense of smell just ruined gorgonzola cheese.

  1. bevchen

    Oh no! I hope your sense of smell comes back.

    A family friend has no sense of smell. She once broke our vaccum cleaner because it started to smoke and she couldn’t smell it. Luckily her son came in before it actually caught fire!

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    1. Where's Zoe Now? Post author

      Eek, not smelling smoke is a bit scary! I have to admit I’ve become slightly paranoid about turning the gas for my stove off at the valve on the wall since I wouldn’t be able to smell a leak — not that I’ve ever previously had a gas leak!

      My theory is that since I’ve only lost my sense of smell recently, it’s probably a weird temporary quirk rather than some kind of permanent damage…

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  2. The Guy

    Sorry to hear of the loss of your sense of smell. The pros do sound appealing.

    I’d be really concerned with my loss of taste as a result though, it would be a real downside for me.

    Hope you recover soon.

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  3. C-Rose

    I hope your sense of smell comes back soon! Maybe, as a bizarre quirk, you’ll only be able to smell good things and be immune from the scent of urine and buses.
    Also, I really enjoyed your Oscar Wilde reference.

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  4. Edna

    I didn’t have a sense of smell for seven years as a kid — eventually had to have surgery in my sinuses to fix it! But I think it’s slowly creeping back…any updates on if your sense of smell has come back?

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