An unhappy affliction lifted.

IMG_2549One evening my housemate Susan baked a wonderful onion-and-potato dish, and as I walked through the kitchen I said, “Oh, my, that smells so good!” The next morning the cooking aromas were present still, and I didn’t think much about it, but the next morning…. What? How odd to have that smell hanging on. I tried putting some aromatic oil in the diffuser, but it made no difference. After a week I had figured out that this odor was not real; it was somehow generated by my own nose sending wrong information to my mind. When I researched the phenomenon online I found phantosmia, sometimes called an olfactory hallucination.

They say it can happen after a respiratory infection. I had recently (mostly) gotten over a cold and the flu. I was smelling a sort of burning-leaf scent. That’s the only thing I could think of to describe it, not that I am terribly familiar with that smell around here – but I was trying to come up with an imagination to match the fake sensation. It was there when I went to sleep, when I woke up, all day long, and when I drove to the next town for an appointment. I could taste my food, sort of, but the weird smell I was registering overpowered most other smells, so that tea was like water, and scented candles were unscented. The articles I had read say this condition “usually” goes away, but I’ve heard of people who have a permanently altered sense of taste, and that sounded like a terrible loss, so I hoped….

Also, I started taking zinc (my pharmacist friend’s recommendation) and Vitamin C, and doing more frequent saline nasal rinses (my doctor’s recommendation). After about ten days I thought maybe the odd smell was fading… and then one afternoon I returned from an errand and sniffed the evidence of my having roasted eggplant that morning – it wasn’t very pleasant, but it was a real cooking odor!

The next day, at church, incense, glorious and sweet and nothing like burning leaves. Thank you, Lord! The crowning delight was the morning I was a bit peeved at my building contractor, and without thinking why, I opened the front door, as though hoping to see a few construction guys driving up. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but the scent of the daphne floated up and filled my nose and mind with its essence, welcome and true.

16 thoughts on “An unhappy affliction lifted.

  1. The human body is fascinating, isn’t it? I never cease to be amazed at what it can retain, produce or experience. I’m not familiar with this word or condition, although I have had scents stick around awhile. I always chalked it up to bad housekeeping. Maybe not!

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  2. You should count your blessings. The same sort of phenomenon afflicts me from time to time, but I my faux odor is cigarette smoke. I didn’t realize I was having an olefactory hallucination until I complained to my apartment manager about the cigarette smoke drifting down into my apartment from the one up above. She gave me a look and said, “There’s no one living there.” Oops.

    On the other hand, I had that same burning-leaf scent floating around my home for a while, and I finally figured out it was from my computer monitor heating up. Several people told me that, but I didn’t believe them. Then, I got a new monitor, and the scent hasn’t been back.

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    1. I truly have been thankful that the smell was something so innocuous, even if I did miss the variety I usually enjoy. I’ve read stories of people permanently plagued with horrid smells or tastes, and cigarette smoke would be pretty bad.

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  3. There’s nothing like losing one of our senses for a time to better appreciate it when it returns. I’m glad yours DID return and things are back to normal.

    The blooming plant (someone said Daphne) looks lovely and no doubt smells wonderfully too.

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  4. When I looked this condition up on Wikipedia I must say it was somewhat unsettling, however interesting. I have a high olfactory sense, not to be confused with a hound dog 😊. My daughter mentions smells that she finds offensive in the kitchen and their lingering effects. Yet I have always chucked that up to her picky eating habits.

    I am not familiar with the Daphne plant, but I do wish I could smell its wonder.

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  5. I’ve had that around my house and I thought it might be something from my heat ducts. It’s sort of a fried food sort of smell. But I don’t seem to smell it when I leave the house. So, it may be the heat ducts, or just odors imbedded in the house. Hard to air things out in the winter. I also saw a warning somewhere (probably FB) which worried me. It said if you smell fried fish it may be your wiring! Hopefully not for you, since it seems to have resolved itself. 🙂

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  6. Reading this while my altered sense of smell is going on due to a virus. What a gift our sense of smell is. We often take it for granted until we have to do without it. Interesting about the zinc and vitamin C. I’ve been getting lots of the C, but forgot about zinc!

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