Flu season is here and with it, the fever, aches, and pains it’s known for! That’s not all this nasty little bug can cause, though. When influenza hits, it could also pose some serious risks including causing damage to your sense of smell.
What is the flu?
Chances are you’ve dealt with influenza, commonly known as the flu before. It is estimated that each year between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. This contagious virus comes on suddenly generally causes symptoms such as:
Fever and chills
Muscle or body aches
The flu virus is most common during the fall and winter, reaching its peak between December and February. Experts recommend everyone get a flu vaccine each year ahead of the flu season peak to help prevent contracting the virus.
While the flu is certainly no fun to get, what we often don’t consider is the serious complications that the virus can cause for some people.
Flu and sense of smell
No one wants to catch the flu. Not only can it leave us with barely enough energy to breath, let alone go to work or make dinner, it can also pose a real risk to us and our health in other ways. Sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the heart or brain and even sepsis can be more severe complications of the flu virus. One that isn’t often mentioned, however, is damage to your sense of smell.
When a virus, such as influenza, affects the respiratory system, it can lead to direct damage of the olfactory nerves or indirect damage to these nerves as a result of increased inflammation. Some experts believe this could go beyond the olfactory nerves and even injure smell pathways in the brain. This damage can result in either a partial or complete loss of smell. The loss may be temporary or permanent.
“If people realize they are not able to smell or taste as well as they used to, they should seek care from an otolaryngologist as soon as possible,” stresses Dr. Zara Patel. “Because the longer the amount of time that passes before they are able to start treatment, the less chance they have for recovery.”
How to prevent the flu and protect your sense of smell
Losing your sense of smell can itself have a serious impact on your health both as a safety risk and increasing your risk of depression and other mental and emotional concerns. One way to protect your sense of smell is by reducing your risk of getting the flu virus.
First and foremost, experts recommend getting a flu shot every year to reduce your risk. While there are many types of flu and the vaccination can be more effective some years than others, it is still a critical step to avoid catching the flu. Also, practice smart prevention techniques such as:
Washing hands regularly
Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth
Staying home and away from others while sick and for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone
Avoiding others who may be sick with flu-like symptoms
Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough
Don’t risk the flu permanently damaging your sense of smell. Take steps today to protect your health and your smell.
If you believe you have lost your sense of smell either in part or completely, contact our office today to get checked. Early diagnosis can make all the difference!