Quick Facts

  • Common after all severities of injuries
  • In minor injuries, recovery will occur usually within a few months following the injury
  • Health, safety, and hygiene issues need to be addressed because individuals may be at an increased risk for ingesting toxins, or developing unsanitary habits
  • A loss in the ability to taste is usually due to a lost sense of smell

What does it
look like?

Difficulties in smell include:

  • Anosmia – a total loss of sense of smell
  • Hyposmia – a partial loss of sense of smell
  • Hyperosmia – enhanced sensitivity to odours
  • Phantosmia/parosmia – ‘false’ smells – experiencing smells that aren’t there
  • Dystocia – distortion in odour perception

Disorders of taste include:

  • Dysgeusia – distortion or decrease in the sense of taste
  • Ageusia – complete loss of sense of taste
  • Parageusia – experiencing a bad taste in the mouth

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Injury to the nose or damage to the nerves located in the nose and mouth
  • Damage to specific areas of the brain associated with smell and taste
  • Some medications can affect the sense of taste

Possible complications from loss of taste:

  • Depression due to an emotional connection with food that they can no longer taste or smell
  • Loss of enjoyment of food
  • Loss of appetite and interest
  • Difficulty eating dry foods
  • Lack of balance in the diet
  • Avoidance to eating
  • Avoidance of specific foods that may taste unpleasant (e.g. meat)
  • Weight loss

Possible complications from loss of smell:

  • Increased health and safety risk due to inability to smell food that has gone bad, natural gas, smoke, etc
  • Loss of taste and enjoyment of food
  • Decreased salivation for eating because cannot smell food

What can we do?

  • Encourage the person to talk with others who are experiencing the same difficulties
  • Access counseling to address emotional difficulties connected with a loss of senses
  • Support the maintenance of a healthy diet by:
    • Making meals varied and interesting
    • Avoid using too much salt or adding excess sugar to coffee/tea
    • Ensure they are drinking an appropriate amount as liquid can help remove unpleasant tastes
  • Taste and smell are very important senses to help our bodies warn us against health and safety issues. Use the following strategies to keep yourself and the individual safe:
    • Ensure smoke alarms are working
    • Encourage them to use an alarm to remind them of food cooking
    • Service gas appliances regularly
    • Practice proper food safety by paying attention to “use by” dates and clearing out the fridge and cupboards regularly
    • Ensure all cleaning products and chemicals are in their original containers and labeled
    • Keep bleach and cleaning products away from food and drink
    • Keep a regular schedule of bathing and clothing/bed linen washing
    • Assign a close friend or family member to assist in managing and identifying these concerns

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.