Help & Advice for Parents
Aisha Hamzah – Specialist Paediatric Nurse Birmingham Womens and Childrens NHS Foundation Trust
ANOSMIA = NOT BEING ABLE TO SMELL
Smell is one of our body’s powerful senses. Our senses are important for everyday life. When we lose one of our senses or are born without one of them, this has a huge impact on the persons daily life.
- If you notice something is wrong with your child’s smell or they suddenly lose that sense, then seek help go to your GP. It is just as important to seek advice or help for loss of smell as it would be if you could not hear or see.
- Smell disorders have a major impact on the quality of life of the life of the people who have it. It is hard to appreciate the sense of smell until you lose it.
- Having anosmia does not mean you lose your taste but it does affect the ability to detect flavour so your child may say they cannot taste.
An estimated 6,000 people in the UK were born without the ability to smell.
This can occur as an isolated abnormality (no additional symptoms) or be associated with a specific genetic disorder. There is no known cure or treatment for congenital anosmia.
When the sense of smell is lost (acquired anosmia), it may be improved or cured when the underlying condition is treated. For example, if the cause is swelling in the nose or sinuses, steroids may be prescribed to help to restore the sense of smell.
- A viral infection affecting the upper respiratory tract. Such as a cold
- Persistent (chronic) sinusitis- with or without nasal polyps
- A nose abnormality, such as a crooked nose or nasal septum (wall dividing nostrils) that is not straight.
- Hay fever – that causes serve inflammation of the nasal passage
- Certain medication- including antibiotics such as metronidazole
- An underactive thyroid
- Head injury
In general, anosmia is usually caused by either a problem with odours getting to the top of the nose (because of swelling or a blockage in the nose) or a problem with nerve signals from the nose to the brain.
In around 20% of cases the cause cannot be found. This is known as idiopathic Anosmia.
Treatments that may help depending on the condition:
- Nasal washing (douching)
- Steroid nasal sprays/tablets
- An operation to have nasal polyps removed
- An operation to straighten the nasal septum
- An operation to clear out the sinuses, called endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS)
These are some suggestions to consider regarding safety in your home.
- Install smoke alarms in all areas of the home, especially kitchen and near fireplaces
- Change from gas appliances to electric (or consider a natural gas detector)
- Clearly mark expiry dates on food and mark leftovers with dates, so you know when to throw them away
- Carefully read warning labels on products such as bathroom and kitchen cleaners to be aware of potent chemicals.
Be aware if your child has short term smell loss, they may miss normal comfort smells such as the smell of their favourite food, flowers, comfort blanket or the smell of their parents/carers who they relate to for comfort.
If your child has never had sense of smell, be aware as they get older of the challenges they might face as they move into their teenage years. For example, they will not know if their PE kit smells, whether their room smells or if they smell. Be kind. Have a discussion with them about how they feel and encourage them to talk to you if they are worried about anything.