In honor of National Anosmia Awareness Day I am reposting something I wrote last March, six weeks after I lost my sense of smell from a viral upper respiratory infection (aka a cold). As of a year later, my ability to smell is slightly improved, maybe by 10% on a good day. I am still not able to taste flavors at all. I know it’s ice cream but with my eyes closed can’t distinguish vanilla from coffee or strawberry. Casseroles might be warm and comforting, but if my life depended on it I couldn’t identify with confidence a single ingredient.

Today’s title, Dead Air, is taken from this wonderful article on Jana Svoboda’s blog “Door Number Two.” Read it!

I’ll be back soon with another $100 gift.

March 20, 2011

Life smells. Sometimes, it stinks.

Wet dogs, raw eggs, the inside of the dirty dishwasher, cat pee – these are all things that smell foul (in my opinion). Then there’s this stuff: coffee, bacon, certain flowers, rain, my family, fresh-baked cookies, home (which often smells like fresh-baked cookies), babies. Mmmm.

About six weeks ago I came down with a nasty bug: cough, congestion, the blahs. It was yucky but not epic by any means. I lay around on the couch for a few days drinking ginger tea and watching the first season of Desperate Housewives. My nose was totally plugged up and I couldn’t smell anything.

The thing about not being able to smell is that you can’t taste anything, either. (If you don’t believe me, try eating with your nose pinched closed. Enlist the help of a friend if you are eating something requiring both hands.)

Actually, the taste buds work just fine; even without your sniffer you can still perceive sour, salty, bitter and sweet. It’s flavor that goes out the window. Chocolate vs vanilla, pinot vs cabernet, tuna vs egg salad, coffee vs tea.

Although I’ve felt fine for the past month or more, I am still waiting for my olfactory apparatus to start working again. I can’t smell (or taste) a thing. Some foods taste either vaguely salty, sweet, bitter or sour. Others taste like, well… nothing: meat, vegetables, bread. Certain ordinarily enjoyable items – such as sandwiches – are downright unpleasant. Eating is a chore. If you struggle with your weight, you may think this is a problem you would like to have. Banish the thought.

Looking at the bright side (not normally my strong suit): cleaning the litter box is a breeze, and I don’t have to hold my breath when I load the dishwasher.

Without scent, without flavor, life is strangely flat. Lacking the olfactory feedback I have come to expect while going through my day, I walk around as if in a bubble. At times I feel disconnected, disoriented, isolated. The eyes in the back of my head no longer see. It’s even been harder to approach strangers.

Odds are, I’ll get my sense of smell back sooner or later. When I do, I hope I don’t ever take it for granted.

To never smell again? That would really stink.

In honor of National Anosmia Awareness Day, please smell and taste something delicious today. Savor every molecule.
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One Response to Dead Air

  1. Jana says:

    Thanks for the shout out. How’s your sniffer? This week is my one year no-nose-aversary; still sucks. Update from you would be welcome.
    Jana

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