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Is it possible to have zero sense of smell? © Getty Images

How does anosmia affect your sense of smell?

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There are lots of causes of anosmia, but the most common is a viral infection.

The medical term for having no sense of smell is ‘anosmia’. People can be born with no sense of smell, due to genetic factors, but most lose it later in life, sometimes permanently. Anosmia has many causes, including head injury, dementia, nasal polyps, and even snake bites.


But the most common cause, accounting for up to 40 per cent of cases, is a viral infection. Indeed, one reported symptom of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 is a loss of smell.

It’s not yet known what causes this, but I experienced it for myself when I had a mild case of COVID-19 earlier this year. My sense of smell gradually returned, but even after three weeks, I still couldn’t smell coffee.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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