Chilly and flu can strike at any time, but with autumn within the air, your chances of getting one among these viral infections might increase. Take colds, as an example, which are the foremost common viral infections of the nose and throat.
There are nearly 100 rhinoviruses that cause quite half colds, says Dr Marvin Hsiao, a medical virologist at the University of Cape Town’s Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences. He remarks that typical signs of a chilly include nasal stuffiness, pharyngitis, sneezing, headache, cough and mild body aches.
Now count yourself lucky if you simply have a chilly and not flu, which is way worse and may cause you to feel as if you would like to possess your coffin measurements taken.
“Flu symptoms such as high fever, tiredness, body pains and headache) often last five to seven days, while the worst of a chilly is typically gone in two to four days,” comments Dr Hsiao.
Still, what sucks with both colds and flu (aside from feeling ghastly) is that you simply can’t even enjoy the flavour of that yummy soup you thought would cause you to feel better. Of course, it’s because you’ve lost your sense of taste alongside your sense of humour. But ever wondered why you can’t taste properly with a chilly or stuffy nose?
The first question that needs answering is why a chilly causes a stuffy nose within the first place.
Dr Hsiao explains that ‘white blood cells in your body produce chemicals to kill virus-infected cells. This causes increased mucous secretions also as nasal swelling and inflammation.’
The link between smell and taste
More importantly, though, is to know that the flavour of food involves both smell and taste. In fact, 80% of our taste is said to smell, so it’s not surprising that the majority of the flavour of food comes from your ability to smell it, explains Professor Jeremiah Alt, professor of Surgery and Rhinology at University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics.
An online publication of the American Rhinologic Society (ARS) website, popular consultant Dr Hsiao explains that the tongue is your taste organ because it can sense salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (savoury). “Our sense of smell (known as olfaction) provides the remainder of a food’s flavour, which is why it’s difficult to understand food flavour once you have nasal obstruction from a chilly, stuffy nose or rhinosinusitis.”
Professor Alt points out that little area called the olfactory cleft high within the roof of your nose senses smell. Here, special cells sense different odours found within the air that we breathe then send signals to the brain via the nervii olfactorii. Taste problem usually occurs when things interrupt taste sensations being transmitted to the brain.
When you have a chilly, the swelling causes inflammation and obstruction, which impairs your smell. The flavour of food is produced only after taste is combined with a smell, so if a stuffy nose impairs your sense of smell, it’ll also decrease your perception of taste.
When your nose is stuffy, taste receptors in your taste buds need to do the work of assessing food flavour in several taste molecules all on their own. Truth is, albeit you’ve got around 2000 and 5000 taste buds on your tongue, in your mouth and throat (with each containing 50 to 100 taste receptor cells) they still don’t compare to what your nose knows!
The two smell (olfactory) receptors found high in your nasal passages have up to 6 million cells and may scent out differences of a minimum of one trillion odours, consistent with neurobiologist and olfaction expert Dr Leslie Vosshall, Head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at The Rockefeller University in NY.
We know that losing your sense of taste once you have a chilly can cause you to feel miserable, but don’t worry, it always doesn’t last long. Popular consultant, Dr Hsiao gives the assurance that ‘your normal taste should return when the infections have all gone.’
When to stress about taste or smell loss
Some people might, however, experience a more prolonged or permanent loss of smell after a chilly, comments Professor Alt. He says it’s believed this permanent loss happens due to direct injury and inflammation of the nervii olfactorii cells (neurons), which successively, result from the rhinoviruses that cause the cold.
Make a meeting to ascertain your GP if:
– Your taste problems don’t getaway
– When you are experiencing abnormal tastes that you are not used to with other symptoms, see your doctor
– Are worried a few persistent changes in your sense of taste or smell
– There’s a sudden or unexplained loss of sense of taste or smell.