Medications That Cause Loss of Smell: What You Need to Know


The sense of smell, also known as olfaction, plays a crucial role in our daily lives. It helps us enjoy the aroma of our favorite foods, detect potential dangers like spoiled food or gas leaks, and even influences our emotional well-being. However, there are instances where individuals experience a loss of smell, also known as anosmia. While there can be various causes of anosmia, one less-discussed factor is the use of certain medications. In this blog post, we’ll explore medications that can cause a loss of smell, their mechanisms, and what you can do if you’re experiencing this side effect.

Medications That May Cause Loss of Smell

  1. Nasal Decongestants: Over-the-counter nasal decongestants that contain oxymetazoline or pseudoephedrine are commonly used to relieve nasal congestion. However, prolonged or excessive use can lead to a condition known as rhinitis medicamentosa, which can result in a loss of smell.
  2. Antibiotics: Some antibiotics, particularly intranasal antibiotics like neomycin and polymyxin B, can damage the olfactory nerve when used for prolonged periods. These antibiotics are usually prescribed for chronic sinusitis or ear infections.
  3. Anti-hypertensive Medications: ACE inhibitors, commonly prescribed to manage high blood pressure, may occasionally cause anosmia as a side effect. However, this side effect is relatively rare.
  4. Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been reported to cause changes in smell perception in some individuals. This side effect is also infrequent but should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
  5. Zinc-Containing Products: Some cold remedies and throat lozenges contain zinc. Inhaling or ingesting large quantities of zinc can damage the olfactory system and lead to a temporary or permanent loss of smell.
  6. Chemotherapy Drugs: Certain chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, can cause damage to the olfactory nerve, leading to anosmia. This side effect is typically temporary but can persist in some cases.
  7. Intranasal Corticosteroids: Although intranasal corticosteroids are commonly used to treat allergies and sinusitis, they can occasionally lead to smell disturbances. This side effect is generally reversible upon discontinuation of the medication.

Understanding the Mechanism

The mechanisms behind medication-induced anosmia can vary depending on the drug. In some cases, medications may directly damage the olfactory nerve or the receptors in the nasal passages responsible for detecting odors. In other instances, medications may disrupt the normal functioning of the nasal mucosa or cause inflammation, leading to a temporary loss of smell.

What to Do If You Experience Anosmia from Medications

If you suspect that a medication you are taking is causing a loss of smell, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider promptly. They can evaluate your condition, consider alternative medications, and determine the best course of action. In some cases, discontinuing the offending medication may lead to a gradual return of your sense of smell.


While medications are designed to improve our health, some can have unintended side effects, including a loss of smell. It’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with the medications you are taking and to communicate any changes in your sense of smell with your healthcare provider. Remember that not everyone will experience anosmia from these medications, and if you do, it is often reversible. Your health is a priority, so always seek professional medical guidance when needed.

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