How’s Your Sense of Smell?

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It’s always been said that humans have no sense of smell, but recent studies find that our noses can pick up an impressive trillion or more odors. Wouldn’t it be great if they were all beautiful fragrances with no “bad” odors? The eyes can only pick out about 10 million colors, so it seems our sense of smell really outdoes it!

Animals and people have a different amount of smell receptors. People have 40 million smell receptors, a dog as many as 2 billion but a bear’s sense of smell is seven times stronger than a bloodhound’s. They use that sense to find food, avoid danger and locate their mates. On the other side, the killer whale is believed to have no sense of smell at all. I guess that’s good for us, huh?

Even though our nose works all the time, too many strong smells can almost make our noses go numb. This is known as “olfactory fatigue,” and the same thing happens when you stay in the kitchen a while. You actually stop noticing those good smells unless you leave and then come back in the room.

As far as perfumes, they really do smell differently on different people, using the same brands. Our body chemistry plays a part in this. When the chemicals in the perfume react with your skin, it produces your own smell. Not everyone’s skin is oily and each has a unique mix of elements like salts, protein and hairs.

Women are really better at smelling, especially the smell of sweat on someone’s body. Researchers made an effort to mask body odor with another scent and the men’s noses could be fooled 19 out of 32 times. Guess what? Women were only fooled twice!

Sometimes certain smells can trigger strong memories. Perhaps a certain cologne could bring back the thoughts and memories of a lost one or smelling apple and cinnamon could take you back to when you were in your grandma’s kitchen.

Some things can affect your sense of smell. Medicines, tobacco and blood pressure pills can affect how our sniffer works, and if you have a cold, flu or a head injury, these can also have an impact on that smeller. Some women actually say their sense of smell gets more intense when they are pregnant.

This sense of smell can actually be sharpened. Try putting herbs or spices in containers and mix them up. Close your eyes and gently sniff. Keep practicing until you are tuned into identifying the specific scents.

Your smell and taste are linked so that’s why food seems really different when you have a cold. If you are stuffed up, you can’t smell it and your idea of taste is completely changed.

You can wake up and smell the coffee but in the early stages of sleep, some smells might be on our radar that wakes us and not that coffee. When you fall asleep, smells won’t rouse you so that’s why we use alarm clocks!

So get out there and smell the roses! There are many wonderful fragrances out there as well as many horrible ones we would rather avoid. Let your nose lead you and enjoy all those fantastic smells of summer and flowers.

-Dr Fredda Branyon

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