Frequently Asked Questions
Deodorant, body spray/perfume, wet wipes, and a spare t-shirt. It’s good to be able to have the option to change your clothing as well as covering up the smell.
Ask someone you trust to smell you and tell you honestly. They should be someone you feel comfortable enought with for them to tell you if/when you do smell. That way, if they haven’t told you that you smell, you probably don’t! Having someone close to you to help you with this can help you to build up an idea of when you smell and why that might be. It is worth talking them through what it means to have no ability to smell, how you need help and how you want them to help you.
The key points for your “designated nose” (the person who helps you with smell) to know are:
1) That they tell you at a time that you can fix the problem e.g. not in the middle of a class or on a bus.
2) That it is helpful to you if they give you good reasons to check things e.g. “it’s been so hot today, we should take a shower.”
3) That they need to tell you when you need to take action in private so as not to cause attention or embarrassment.
4) That they need to try to make it clear with their tone and phrasing when they are telling you. Tell them you need them to explain things to you because they care about YOU, not because they are inconvenienced e.g: “You might want to consider an extra shower today” vs “You stink, did you shower this month?”.
Kindness is key and most people are lovely.
There are some cool tricks to tell if certain foods are off. For example, sour milk in hot water curdles. However, best before dates are a reasonable fall back – just make sure you know when you opened it. If you aren’t sure, ask someone to smell it. If there is no-one with a working nose around, wait until they are or just throw it way. It is NOT worth the risk. You can also label food that you open with the date that you opened it so you will know how old it is.
It depends on the situation. Like everything personal, certain people, like strangers at a BBQ, don’t need to know. So, if you don’t want to have the conversation, don’t. If you have to tell someone, or you just want to tell someone, it is really up to you.
You can either wait until smell comes up (it always does eventually) and just say “I actually don’t have a sense of smell”. Or you can say something like “ok, this is random, but I don’t have a sense of smell, so if there is gas or a fire, or if my room stinks, you need to tell me”. I try and make it a light conversation starter and see if they have follow up questions. It could be a long exchange with the same questions every time, so strap in and remember – they are learning.
It can be infuriating. However, you have to remember that they don’t live in a world without smell, so the fact that you do and it is something that’s a given for them, is incomprehensible.
Those close to you might not be familiar, but there are thousands of us around the world to talk/vent to.
Ask someone you trust to help you pick one and stick to it. If you are feeling confident, you could even ask the shop assistants – they are normally very friendly and happy to help, but asking strangers for help can be daunting.
The best way to try and avoid becoming a bit smelly, is to get to know your body and get a routine going. So, shower every day and then if you notice you are super sweaty in summer/ after exercise, throw an extra shower in. Also, try to remember to wear deodorant and reapply during the day if you start to feel sweaty. Try to work out how long clothes last before they need washing. Generally T-shirts and underwear last a day, jumpers and trousers last around 3 days.
However, if you have been sweating or near smoke, then try to wash clothes straight away. Too much washing is better than being worried about them smelling.
This depends on whether you want to have the discussion or not. If you want to say “Hey I can’t smell, what’s it like?” then say it. If you don’t, you can either ignore it, smile, laugh, or fully fake it and join in. You can also secretly celebrate that you can’t smell it so you have won this round! When the joking stops, they are still sitting in a stink and you can just happily move on!
Do you ever wonder how people know things you don’t? Like what’s for dinner, or that someone has cut the grass? Or perhaps when you are all eating skittles/fruit pastels they are saying they taste different but to you it’s all just sugar? Honestly, it’s hard to know for sure, some days you might still think you can smell but then someone points out a smell that you can’t detect. The best way to test it is to just try and smell things that should smell – like shampoo and vanilla extract, if you get nothing, you probably can’t smell.
But be aware of things like bleach and nail polish, they trigger a different stimulus called the trigeminal nerve so you might “feel” those smells without detecting the odour. More pleasantly this can also be the case with spearmint and eucalyptus so try sniffing a jar of Vicks vapour rub and see if you get the tingle!
It’s rough, some people just won’t believe you – it’s a pretty unbelievable thing to be missing a sense! It’s hard to prove and it’s exhausting to try. But you can pick your battles, maybe one day something will happen that will convince them, until then, focus on those who do believe you.
And if those people feel few and far between, check online, there are groups, and blogs, pages and podcasts and feeds full of people just like you. They will not only believe you but will be able to empathise with you so don’t wait, reach out!
You are in the right place! Fifth Sense are a great source of help and support. If you need a doctor/diagnosis, they can help you find someone who will believe you and actually test you. If you want to reach out to the community, they run amazing events that are great fun and a great way to connect.
If you want to find content creators they have a bunch of Ambassadors that cover every platform imaginable (podcasts, blogs, TikTok, Instagram, you name it!).
You can also find a lot of great groups on Facebook, that offer support and often a funny side to anosmia! Honestly, there are a lot of people who want to talk with you about it. So, once you find the community, you won’t be short of people to talk to!
If you are struggling to cope, reach out. Talking about it always helps. And if you can’t talk to those physically near you, reach out to the online community. Fifth Sense are able to help you find someone who will understand and help, whether by direct message or public post. The support is there and you are not alone.
It SUCKS but unfortunately it is important. You can try to reduce it by setting up other checks and routines like knowing roughly how long clothes last for or using food before their sell by dates. However, in the immortal words of CharlieIsSoCoolLike “the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind”.