Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Anosmia (loss of smell)

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Anosmia is the medical term for the loss of smell.
  • Loss of smell can be caused by many things, such as injury and COVID-19.
  • Anosmia can be diagnosed by examining your nose and mouth, and through other tests.
  • Smell is important for experiencing life, especially food.
  • If you have anosmia, and you experience a loss of appetite or depression, talk to your doctor.

What is Anosmia?

Anosmia is the medical term for the loss of smell.

If a person has a partial sense of smell, it is called hyposmia.

Your sense of smell contributes to your everyday experiences. Smell is especially connected to the sense of taste. Having anosmia can affect the taste of food and drink.

What symptoms are related to anosmia?

If you have anosmia, this means you are unable to smell anything. Other symptoms you might experience depend on what causes your anosmia.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes anosmia?

Anosmia and hyposmia have many different causes. Most of the time, the causes of anosmia are age-related. Some people are born with anosmia.

Injuries to the head and face can cause the loss of smell.

Infections can also cause anosmia, such as:

Anosmia can also be caused by some chemicals and medicines. This includes some illicit drugs, such as cocaine.

Other causes of anosmia are:

When should I see my doctor?

If you notice a change in your sense of smell, see your doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is anosmia diagnosed?

To diagnose anosmia, your doctor might refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. The specialist can help diagnose your condition through:

How is anosmia treated?

Treatment depends on why you lost your sense of smell. It can involve:

Can anosmia be prevented?

You can protect your sense of smell by:

  • avoiding certain chemicals
  • avoiding certain drugs
  • not smoking

If you are taking any medicines, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about the risk of anosmia.

If you do have anosmia, you can make your home safer by:

  • reading food expiry dates carefully
  • making sure your smoke alarms are working
  • checking that cookers, barbecues and electrical appliances are turned off properly

Complications of anosmia

If you have a cold, your sense of smell will usually come back within 1 or 2 weeks. See your doctor if your sense of smell doesn't come back after this time.

If you have anosmia, you may find that food tastes bland. This can affect your life, particularly if your family and social life revolves around meals. This can impact your appetite.

If you have anosmia, you might also worry about:

  • eating something that's spoiled
  • not noticing dangerous smells like gas or smoke

Because of these reasons, having anosmia can negatively impact your mental health.

Resources and support

If you feel depressed, speak to your doctor or call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

If you want to know more about anosmia you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


RACGP (An approach to olfactory impairments in the general practice setting), Chemical Senses (Anosmia—A Clinical Review)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.