011 839 4418/9

Some interesting facts about your sense of smell also known as the olfactory system. Embryologically the olfactory system starts to develop as early as the third week of pregnancy when the olfactory indentations or pits are formed. So, what happens for humans and animals and to be able to pick up smells or scents. Odour molecules enter the nasal cavity either through the nostrils, or through the throat, and then up the back passage to the back of the nasal cavity. The odour molecules are dissolved in mucus which is then picked up by the cilia or tiny hairs in the olfactory nerve fibres. These odours are then converted into an electrical impulse which is transferred via the olfactory nerve system to the olfactory cortex in the brain where it is interpreted.

Most people only appreciate their sense of smell once they have lost it either temporarily or in certain cases permanently. It plays a major role in our day-to-day enjoyment of life as well as in our fight and flight mechanism. Total loss of smell is called in Anosmia, and partial loss of smell is called hyposmia. Factors that can cause an alteration of the sense of smell or total loss of smell include the following: a cold or flu virus.

Most of us have experienced a lack of taste and smell during certain cold or flu infections. Viruses can damage the fine cilia that detect the odour molecules. The damage can be just local or can affect the nerves right up into the brain. A second common cause is in relation of very sharp odours from chemicals. An interesting fact is that as, with our eyes and ears, age related reduction in the sensitivity of the sense of smell is not spared. It has been stated that most people have lost at least 40% of their smell sensitivity by the age of 80. This is even more prevalent in men than in women. What is dangerous in this regard is that people above 70 had a 20% inability to detect the smell of smoke or natural gas, which can have serious consequences.

After a serious head injury, the sensitive nerve fibres that move through the perforated plate that separates the brain from the external nose called the cribriform plate can be disrupted, which can cause permanent irreparable damage to the sense of smell. Conditions like Alzheimer’s disease as well as multi-infarct dementia and schizophrenia have a high incidence of smell problems.

Did you know that humans give off a particular sense of smell and that, if tuned in, can smell the odour of an unmarried person versus a married person. It is also stated that people that have an attraction to each other might find the other persons smell pleasant and they might not even realise it. If consider the above information you will realise how important it is to achieve a good quality of life by nurturing your olfactory sense.