Press Pack & Media
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Fifth Sense is the charity for people affected by smell and taste disorders. We provide direct support and information to people affected by these hidden, under-recognised sensory impairments and their families. The charity also works to improve knowledge and understanding amongst professionals through education and training and is determined to support research to improve knowledge and understanding and accelerate the steps to treatments and potential cures.
- BBC World Service – Health Check – What can you do to help overcome post-Covid smell loss?
- The Conversation – COVID: a distorted sense of smell is dangerous but treatable
- COVID Killed your sense of smell? Here’s how experts train people to get theirs back
- Headway’s interview with Duncan Boak
- BBC Radio 4 – COVID Symptoms
- The Independent – Coronavrius: Why are loss of smell and taste symptoms of COVID-19
- The Guardian: COVID-19 Why are some people losing their taste and smell? Podcast
- Red Pepper Nutrition Podcast – Anosmia Awareness with Duncan Boak – Fifth Sense
Smell & Taste Facts:
Smell loss and disorders are regarded as being rare conditions but they are more common than many people think. Numerous studies, undertaken in several countries to try to establish the prevalence of smell disorders, have suggested that anywhere from 1% to over 5% of people have no sense of smell (anosmia) with many more having a reduced ability to smell (hyposmia). Results vary according to who was surveyed in each study but taking all this into account, it is reasonable to say that potentially around 5% of the population has a smell disorder.
Taste disorders are rarer but there are instances when a person’s ability to taste food is compromised whilst their sense of smell is unaffected. For example, the loss of the sense of taste (ageusia) means that the ability to detect the basic tastes, sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami, has gone, but the sense of smell is unaffected.
Throughout 2020 and into 2021, there was a huge increase in the number of people who have experienced smell/taste dysfunction following COVID-19 infection. Whilst many people recovered their senses relatively quickly, as of 2023 it is thought that up to a million people in the UK may still be experiencing ongoing smell and taste impairment as part of Long Covid symptoms.
There are a wide range of causes of smell disorders – upper respiratory tract infections, other viruses, traumatic brain injury, sinus infections, allergies, a consequence of some cancer treatments, as a side effect of medications. There are other conditions for which smell loss is a consequence, this includes Parkinsons Disease and age-related degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. For many, the cause is never identified and for a smaller number of people they are born without the ability to smell – this is called congenital anosmia.
Taste disorders can be caused by traumatic brain injury, cancer therapies, viruses and side effects from medications and other things. Some people who cannot smell, can taste and some people who cannot taste, can smell. There are also people who have heightened abilities to smell and taste – they often describe themselves as super-smellers or super-tasters.
Because there are so many causes, there is no singular successful medical treatment or self-management intervention. For Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS), steroid treatments can work. For those with nasal polyps, surgery can alleviate smell disorders. For some there are no proven medical treatments yet available, hence the importance of ongoing research. Smell training and nasal rinsing are techniques that can be safely undertaken at home and are known to be successful for some people but not all – again causation is a factor that determines the outcome.
Fifth Sense was established in 2012 and became a charity registered in England and Wales in 2014. We are dedicated in our vision to transform society’s understanding of the importance of the senses of smell and taste, and, through doing so, transform the lives of those affected by smell and taste disorders.
Our Strategy is to address the lack of understanding within society of the role that the senses of smell and taste play in our lives, a major reason for the lack of appreciation of the impact that disorders of these senses can have on those affected.
We seek to play a leading role in educating society on the importance of the senses of smell and taste to our lives. Through this, we can engender better awareness of the profound consequences of smell and taste disorders, demonstrate the need for better education among the medical profession, greater availability of medical services and the need for further research into such conditions and their treatment.
Our Trustees are:
Robert Meadowcroft (Chair)
Azim Karimjee (Treasurer)
Professor Carl Philpott (Honorary Director of Research and Medical Affairs)
Our staff team comprises:
Duncan Boak (Chief Executive and founder)
Sarah Pearce (Director of Services and Operations)
Mags Robinson (Support and Information Officer)
Helen Rhodes (Engagement and Education Officer)
We are supported by an advisory board, public ambassadors and an extensive network of volunteers.
All information and support is evidence-based, and we work closely with scientists and clinicians who help ensure that the information we provide is accurate.
- Anosmia – the total inability to smell that can be acquired or present from birth
- Hyposmia – the reduced ability to smell
- Parosmia – a distorted sense of smell
- Phantosmia – smell hallucinations – detecting smells that are not present
- Hyperosmia – a heightened ability to smell
- Ageusia – the inability to taste
- Dysguesia – distorted tastes
- Hypogeusia – reduced ability to taste