I stared at my laptop screen, waiting for the ear, nose and throat specialist to click in. A telemedicine appointment. I felt a little guilty about taking the doctor’s time, since it wasn’t an emergency, but this appointment had been scheduled for months.
The ENT doctor appeared on the screen. We greeted one another, and he read the required disclosures. After I consented to the conditions of the appointment, he said, “Okay, tell me what’s going on.”
“As a sensory organ, my nose has become a recluse,” I said. “Last summer, I came down with a nasty, mouth-breathing cold, which lasted three weeks. Afterwards, the symptoms lingered, and my sense of smell was totally off. I couldn’t smell cleaning products, not even bleach, no herbs or spices or sweet smells either. But I didn’t lose my sense of smell completely—I could smell something.” I paused to consider how to put this delicately. “Everything smelled like poo, and therefore food kind of tasted like poo, too.”
The doctor smirked. “Sorry about that. With anosmia, it’s not uncommon to retain some sensors if you lose your sense of smell due to a cold or allergies. In your case, the sensor you retained was poo.”
I shrugged. “I know anosmia is common in old age but thought maybe I had a sinus infection. I also wanted to rule out anything dire, so I made an appointment for an annual physical last fall. Everything checked out fine. I was referred to an ENT specialist and was supposed to see you this winter, but with all the disruptions…” We both shrugged.
“In the meantime, some smells have come back. Cleaning products first then a strong taste of pepper and cinnamon. I can smell the sweet viburnum that’s in bloom now, and food is tasting better. The loss is livable, of course, as are the lingering headaches and cold symptoms, but I wondered if there were treatments that could help me feel better and regain more smell sensors.”
The ENT specialist wrote the details for two treatments in my online chart. First, for three months, irrigating my nose and sinuses twice daily with a saline-steroid compound solution, available from a pharmacy. Second, six months of smell retraining therapy with four essential oils: rose (flowery), lemon (fruity), cloves (spicy), and eucalyptus (resinous).
I ordered all online. Not bad, I thought. Better than wrestling with traffic, parking, and all the administrative stuff of an in-person visit.
Maybe my nose isn’t the only recluse.
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