My tube of shower gel was running low so I delved into my cupboard to select another – I have quite a stash thanks to all the Christmas presents from years gone by that I receive more frequently than I consume.

packagingMy brother was visiting while I unpacked a tube from its fancy packaging; these things are so overly packaged by manufactures for Christmas, to add on some extra value, it’s ridiculous. Some consist of two or three containers/tubes/spray cans of stuff, packaged in a plastic tray within a cardboard box, some boxes are more substantial and have a plastic film window, some are packaged as ‘travel’ packs complete with fabric carry case, some are even in sturdy metal tins… why!?

I removed the cap from my chosen tube, and pealed off the additional foil cap, and had a sniff…


I shrugged – this was to be expected. My brother commented that whoever had chosen this particular set for me had good taste – it was quality stuff, except I couldn’t smell anything.

I handed it to him and he confirmed it did smell – he suggested I give the tube a gentle squeeze to push the smell up into my nose.

I tried again and concentrated hard while I took long slow inhalation through my nostril, but still nothing.

A further wise suggestion from my brother was that the shower gel would be activated by the warm water of the shower, and then I’d smell it (just like how I smell my current shower gel).*

*I used some of the new shower gel as bubble bath… I still couldn’t smell it, but it made good bubbles!

anosmiaIt’s not as if I can’t smell anything. Some things I can smell, or I’m convinced I am, but floral fragrances generally not; given a bouquet of flowers to smell, or if I stick my nose in a daffodil, I’ll get nothing. If I stick my nose over an open bag of coffee beans, yummy, I can smell that, I have an open bag of dry roasted peanuts on my desk and if I suspend my nose over the opening, I can smell the contents.

Did I always have a poor sense of smell or did something happen to cause it, or was it gradual decline? I don’t know but I have two ideas:

  1. A knock to my nose as a young teenager.
  2. Hay-fever and the use of nasal-sprays.

Then today on BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour was dedicated to the topic of ansomia – the lost of the sense of smell. Here are some interesting points that were raised:

Anomsima affects our ability to:

  • enjoy cooking / eating – I feel like I just cook/eat to fuel my body. I feel like I do taste but perhaps it’s more about textures.
  • enjoy flowers and countryside.
  • enjoy the skin and hair of a partner, indeed we can be attracted (subconsciously also) to people because of how they smell.
  • notice dangerous smells such as gas or smoke – I can smell when my fridge needs cleaning.
  • notice our own smell for the benefits of personal hygiene – sticking my nose under my warm sweater works for me, but for complete anosmia it may not help.

Other points:

  • we forget familiar smells, like our own homes, unless we go away for a while.
  • smell is partly unconscious.
  • 1 in 20 people in the UK have a problem with their sense of smell.
  • the fault can be in the nose or brain.

Further reading:

BBC Radio 4 – The Neglected Sense


  1. My mom was just saying the other day that things don’t smell as good as they used to. Like hanging laundry outside, it used to smell so good when you brought it in but now if you hang clothes out, they don’t have that same fresh smell.

    • I suppose it could be a combination of manufacturers of soap powders skimping on ingredients, our senses being dulled over time by the smells we are familiar with… or a creeping onset of anosmia – maybe it happens to all, like ageing eyesight and less sensitive hearing.

  2. I heard that Woman’s Hour too – it was really interesting. I have had complete anosmia for about seven years now and my theory is that it’s connected (for me) with memory loss. I lost my memory when the menopause hit, to the extent that I couldn’t remember people, places or events, and I am convinced that the loss of smell is connected to this, since memory and smell are powerfully linked. I get the occasional whiff of something strong – just momentary, then it’s gone. I hope it comes back soon…

    • Thanks for your insight, and sorry to hear about your anosmia – indeed the memory associations are intriguing; sometimes I’ll get a whiff of something and it will remind me of something from my past, but the sense is too fleeting for me to properly recall the event, like a word on the tip of the tongue.

  3. in my case i had used some nose spray..but i’m dot sure.. it could be something as simple as blowing the nose too hard. i personally don’t think that age should have to do with it. I also think it is how many colds we have had in our life. It adds up after years. After 6 years of frustration with a problem with smell and taste i am fine now. Hope it will last as i find it utterly frustrating. Hope you figure out something in your case..

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