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A poor sense of smell can be a safety issue, survey shows

Photo: YinYang/gettyimages

A recent survey of people with a smell disorder shows that, in the past five years, 15%-35% have experienced a safety scare or incident involving gas, smoke and/or spoiled food.

Although loss of smell can be congenital or occur for unknown reasons, it’s also a known side effect of COVID-19

The survey was distributed by Fifth Sense, a UK-based charity that works to help people with a poor, altered or no sense of smell stay safe at home. Using responses from 432 people with smell disorders, researchers found that 86% of respondents said they had safety concerns. In addition:

  • 34.5% experienced at least one gas-related scare, while 14.8% were involved in at least one gas incident in which someone was hurt.
  • 32.2% had at least one safety incident involving food.
  • 18.5% were involved in at least one safety incident at work.

Smell impairment also directly impacts lifestyle choices. Some survey respondents said they deliberately avoid living in environments with gas installations out of anxiety or fear.

“The findings show that smell loss significantly affects personal safety and emotional well-being,” said lead researcher Liam Lee of the University of East Anglia Medical School. “But we can help by finding ways to make things safer for them. We could teach people about the risks and make tools like ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to help them recognize dangerous smells.”

The study was published online in the journal European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology.

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