Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No Scents

Elizabeth Zierah has an excellent article at Slate about the misery of losing her sense of smell.

I began searching the Internet like a cyber bloodhound (at least I could sniff virtually) for the trail that would lead to my missing sense of smell. I tried nasal washes, nose sprays, herbal remedies, steroids, acupuncture, antihistamines, dietary modification, meditation, and visualization. A few worked for very brief periods, but nothing lasted.

I lost normal function on the left side of my body from a stroke when I was 30, and although I've had a strong recovery, I still have limited fine-motor control in my left hand, I walk with a limp, and I can't feel much on my affected side. Yet without hesitation I can say that losing my sense of smell has been more traumatic than adapting to the disabling effects of the stroke.

My taste buds are in perfect working order, but without smell, each meal is a variation of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or vaguely savory cardboard.

....not being able to smell yourself makes personal hygiene incredibly stressful.

I'm not only dogged by the fear of stinking; I've also found that life is more dangerous. I've burned food and melted pots so many times I should be declared a walking fire hazard. Like most anosmics, I view any gas appliance as an archnemesis. I've become compulsive about making sure my gas stove is really on when I turn the dial.

I've seen the potential danger once myself. A co-worker at Public TV lost his sense of smell due to nasal spray overuse. One day he put a frozen dinner in the microwave oven at work and it emitted a stench the like of which I've experienced only one other time, when I was near a dead cow that had been in the summer sun for a few days and burst. The dinner must have thawed long enough to spoil at some point, then got refrozen. He didn't notice it at all, and would have eaten at least some of it if we hadn't been there to intervene.

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