What causes loss of smell & taste?

Updated November 22, 2016

The connection between taste and smell is a strong one, so when there's a problem in one area, there's often a problem in the other. Sometimes the root cause can be minor, but there are serious conditions that can cause a loss of these senses.


The loss of smell and taste might be nothing more than an inconvenience caused by a cold, but even then there are risks. The inability to smell a gas leak or taste food that has gone bad can lead to serious consequences.

Common Causes

Some of the more common culprits that cause loss of taste and smell are cigarette smoke, pollutants, the common cold, medications like antibiotics and blood pressure medicines, tooth and gum diseases, blocked nasal passages and allergies. It is also common for us to lose some of our sense of taste and smell as we age.

Other Causes

Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, chemotherapy, nasal polyps, tumours, surgery and even a hit to the head can cause a loss of smell and taste.


If you are concerned about a loss of taste or smell, a doctor can perform a scratch and sniff test. He might also call for X-rays, CAT scans and nasal examinations to determine the amount of loss, its cause, and the extent of damage.


While minor causes, such as a cold or smoking, can be handled on your own, more serious causes might require antibiotics or surgery.

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