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Medicine and Me: Living Without Smell and Taste event report

Lisha McClelland presents, with session Chair Sean Carrie

On Friday 26th May over 120 Fifth Sense members, their partners and family members came together with medical professionals at an event at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM)  in London.  Living Without Smell and Taste was part of the RSM’s Medicine and Me series, which provides patients and their families with an opportunity to gain insight from the medical profession and relevant patient bodies around a medical condition which affects them.

The event was proposed by RSM Dean Emeritus John Scadding after  Consultant ENT Surgeon and Fifth Sense trustee Mr Carl Philpott deliver a lecture at the RSM in November 2016.  Mr Philpott and fellow trustee Duncan Boak met with John and RSM colleagues and co-designed a programme that incorporated Fifth Sense members talking about their experiences of living with a smell/taste disorder alongside a number of ENT Consultants who explained what is known about these conditions and challenges involved in treating them.

Fragrance writer Louise Woollam opened proceedings by talking movingly about her experience of losing her sense of smell as the result of a virus, a situation that became much worse after she then began to experience severe parosmia.  ENT Consultant Miss Lisha McClelland of the smell and taste clinic at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital then spoke about post-viral olfactory loss, phantosmia and parosmia.

Claire Hopkins talks about the importance of self-management

Claire Hopkins talks about the importance of self-management

Alahree McDonell then spoke about how she has been affected by Chronic Rhinosinusitis for many years, and the various dietary changes she has made as part of efforts to self-manage her condition, which was improved by a visit to the rhinology clinic at Guy’s Hospital in London, run by Miss Claire Hopkins.  Claire herself followed Alahree and spoke about various ways in which CRS can be treated and managed, as well as the MACRO project that aims to improve the way this condition is managed across the NHS.

After a break, Ian Rickson spoke about losing his sense of smell following a head injury, and how this experience has affected his life in different ways.  Iordanis Konstantinidis, an ENT Surgeon who runs a smell and taste clinic in Greece, followed Ian by explaining how olfactory loss can be caused by head trauma.  Iordanis also spoke about the work he is doing to try to encourage early referrals from A&E to his clinic so patients can be investigated sooner for olfactory impairment.

BBC R4 presenter Kathy Clugston then gave a very engaging talk about having never had a sense of smell, mentioning her dad’s favourite joke: My daughter’s got no nose (we’ll refrain from including the ‘punchline’).  John Scadding and Duncan Boak then summed up proceedings and thanked the speakers for their contributions to what was a really informative, rewarding and, at times, emotional experience.

Kathy Clugston with the RSM's John Scadding

Kathy Clugston with the RSM’s John Scadding

It is the first time that such a high-profile UK medical organisation has hosted an event on smell and taste disorders, and the support of the RSM is something that will help us in our goals around engaging with and educating the medical profession on these conditions.  Mr Sean Carrie, who runs a rhinology clinic at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, made a great point when he talked about the partnership between Fifth Sense and the clinicians with whom we have links being a means through which we can educate other healthcare professionals.  We look forward to developing our relationship with the RSM and we’d like to thank them for their support of our cause.

If you’re affected by a smell/taste disorder and would like to seek a referral to one of the clinicians mentioned in the article then visit the ‘Clinics’ page of our website for more information.

Louise Woollam writes a blog called the Parosmia Diaries which is a valuable resource for anyone affected by this condition.

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