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Covid-19 Smell Testing

Guidance on screening and testing smell ability for individuals and organisations

Smell Training Self Test

Establish your baseline ability to smell before you start training. Click here to download the test.

Smell Training Diary Log

A handy diary to log your smell training, learn from it and record progress. Click here to download the diary.

Smell Training Using What You Have

Guidelines on how to smell train using things you have at home

Smell Training Using Essential Oils

Guidelines on how to smell train using essential oils

‘How to Smell Train At Home’ – Video

Watch Sarah McCartney guide you through how to smell train

Smell Screening/Testing During The Covid-19 Pandemic

There are a number of internationally recognised clinical/scientific Smell Identification Tests used to assess and diagnose smell disorders. Studies often use scents that cover a range of everyday smells but the most important thing is that you use things that have a distinctive smell that are easily identifiable and are familiar to those undertaking the test.

For example, for school children, things like orange, vanilla and mint are smells even very young children are likely to be able to identify. For older adults, garlic, coffee, coconut are additional scents you could use – the list is endless and you can adapt what you use to best suit cultures, age range and circumstances. For simplicity you could easily use any fragrance to check whether or not smells can be smelled.

In order to gather ongoing data about the rates of smell loss during the pandemic, it would be helpful if you could provide us with a snapshot of your current experience. The data collected is entirely anonymous but may help with further research about Covid-19 and how many people are experiencing smell loss.

Thank you for taking the time to complete.

Smell Screening During the Covid-19 Pandemic

It is important to know that potentially 5% of the population (around 3 million people in the UK) have a smell disorder, meaning they are unable to smell properly, if at all.

Smell disorders such as anosmia (an inability to smell), hyposmia (reduced sense of smell), parosmia (distorted sense of smell), phantosmia (smelling things that aren’t present), can be caused by viral infections other than Covid-19, swelling in the nose and sinuses (e.g. chronic sinusitis, allergies), traumatic head injuries and a range of other causes. Some people are born without a sense of smell.

Personal Smell Testing At Home
If you are personally worried about Covid-19 symptoms and want to test your own ability to smell you can undertake this simple test at home. It takes less than 2 minutes – SIMPLE!

From the research studies so far, this novel Coronavirus often presents sudden and obvious smell loss in those affected. Which is why “Yes I can smell a scent” or “No I can’t smell anything” would be helpful.

You can download a daily diary to record your/your family’s ability to smell to enable you to decide if to seek medical advice and guidance and/or decide if you need to self-isolate.

Click here to download
Smell Testing If You Are An Employer/Organisation*
If you are responsible for the health and safety of staff, pupils, customers, clients, visitors etc and you are concerned about the safety and welfare of everyone who accesses your building during this pandemic, there are a number of simple and cost effective ways you can perform a basic and simple testing of people’s ability to smell. If you are screening/testing on behalf of an organisation please bear in mind that some people may have existing smell disorders that are unrelated to Covid-19. It is therefore important to be supportive and non-discriminatory in your policy/approach. You can download an example testing/screening record below:

Click here to download

Smell Training Q&A

Where can I buy the smells used in smell training?
You don’t have to buy oils to smell train – you can use items you have at home and follow the SmellAbility Toolbox guide above for Smell Training Using What You Have. However, if you prefer to have a dedicated set of scents, you can use essential oils, which come in a wide variety of aromas. They can be purchased online and from aromatherapy shops. Essential oils are suggested because they are a stable source of odour that can keep for weeks in sealed vials/jars. The oils themselves don’t have any sort of healing properties, but they do have shelf life that can be helpful in having pre-prepared resources.

Does it matter which smells I use?

Many of the smell training research studies have used the same four smells – lemon, rose, clove and eucalyptus. However there’s no evidence to say these are the ‘right’ smells to use. You could certainly start with these, and change them regularly – see the next question. Choosing smells that you are familiar with and have memories of is a good idea. You can also use your other senses to help and use every opportunity to smell train whenever you can – when you eat an orange, use your senses of touch and sight to help you to recall memories, when you go for a walk, enjoy the breeze and look at the detail of the flowers whilst you take a sniff. All of this will help your regular, more formal smell training.

Why change the smells?

One group of participants in the 2015 ‘Modified Olfactory Training’ study (see main page text) changed to a different set of four smells every twelve weeks. The study suggests that this can potentially enhance success rates (note that the study was focused on people with post-viral olfactory loss).

Options & Guidance To Create A Smell Screening Test

You could adopt any of these options, or adapt your own variations, to suit your needs. Anyone who identifies a problem with their sense of smell can be supported by Fifth Sense – there is a wealth of information about ongoing smell/taste disorders available via our homepage

Organisations/employers would need to follow all current government guidelines and own organisation policy on access to buildings and advice regarding self-isolation, ensure good hand hygiene and organisational infection prevention/covid-19 policies are followed.

Option 1: Smells At Source

Option 2: Scent Strips/Tissues

Option 3: Commercially Available Smell Identification Tests

Pretty much anything you have that is safe to hold reasonably close to your nose. You can use a jar of coffee, grated zest of an orange/lemon/lime in a bowl, a sprig of mint or basil plant, a fragranced shampoo (coconut is good). Always ensure you choose something that is NOT an irritant (ie air freshener, cleaning products etc). Just hold the item close (but not touching) your nose and inhale. Simple!

Spray each strip with a perfume scent or dip into an essential oil​, sniff it and identify whether or not you can detect a smell – a simple Yes or No. Essential oils and fragrance strips can be purchased online alternatively, you could use a tissue or cotton pad in the exact same way.

Are available online from a number of commercial organisations.