When the Sniffles Stifle Smelling

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By Nicole Garneau, PhD

I felt it coming on yesterday, the headache the itchy throat, the inability to focus.... I knew what was coming, I was at the cusp of coming down with something. Sure enough, I woke up this morning in a daze of achiness, swollen glands and complete congestion- YUCK! Plus the smell of freshly ground and brewed coffee that normally helps guide me out from under the sheets of slumber was no where to be found.

I forced myself out of bed and headed for the kitchen. There was coffee (phew! I knew I'd need it), and I was in fact hungry- so I popped a cinnamon raisin English muffin into the toaster. Now normally this makes the kitchen smell like a bakery, the enticing smell of warm cinnamon which makes my stomach growl and my mouth salivate. Not today. What was going on?


It turns out that I couldn't really experience the joy of eating my breakfast because of my congestion- plain and simple, I couldn't smell. I still could taste though! As I ate my English muffin with honey, I could still perceive sweetness, and when I drank  my coffee I could still perceive it was slightly bitter (and I could feel the creamy texture of the half and half I added via the trigeminal nerve), but it was not as pleasant as it usually is because I did not have the entire experience of flavor perception, I was missing smell.

In the end, there was so little pleasure in eating that I didn't finish the English muffin or my coffee. I opted for some echinacea tea, cleaned up and made my way to work. For all you with cold, congestion or allergies, I feel for you!


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