Sneezing and your sense of smell: what's the connection?

Sneezing and your sense of smell: what's the connection?

The Science Behind Sneezing

Before we delve into the connection between sneezing and our sense of smell, let's first discuss the science behind sneezing itself. Sneezing is a natural reflex action that occurs when our nasal passages become irritated, and is triggered by a variety of factors such as allergens, infections, or even bright lights. When we sneeze, our body is attempting to expel these irritants from our nose, allowing us to breathe more comfortably. Sneezing also helps to cleanse our nasal passages, ensuring that the tiny hairs, or cilia, within our nose can continue to function properly and filter out foreign particles.

How Our Sense of Smell Works

Now that we understand the purpose of sneezing, let's take a closer look at how our sense of smell works. Our sense of smell, known as olfaction, is controlled by our olfactory system. This complex system is responsible for detecting and interpreting various scents in our environment. When we inhale, odor molecules pass through our nasal passages and come into contact with our olfactory receptors, which then send signals to our brain. Once these signals reach our brain, they are processed and identified, allowing us to recognize and interpret different smells.

Sneezing and Sense of Smell: The Connection

So, what does sneezing have to do with our sense of smell? When we sneeze, it can temporarily disrupt the functioning of our olfactory system. The forceful expulsion of air through our nasal passages can cause a brief disruption in the flow of odor molecules, making it difficult for our olfactory receptors to detect and interpret smells. Additionally, sneezing can cause our nasal passages to become inflamed or congested, further impairing our ability to smell. However, it's important to note that this connection is typically short-lived, and our sense of smell should return to normal shortly after sneezing.

Temporary Loss of Smell: Anosmia

Sometimes, sneezing can lead to a temporary loss of smell, also known as anosmia. This can occur when the lining of our nasal passages becomes inflamed or congested due to an infection, allergies, or other irritants. When this happens, odor molecules are unable to reach our olfactory receptors, resulting in a diminished or completely lost sense of smell. In most cases, anosmia is temporary and will resolve as the underlying cause is treated.

Chronic Loss of Smell: Hyposmia

In some cases, individuals may experience a more persistent loss of smell, known as hyposmia. This can be caused by chronic sinus infections, long-term exposure to allergens, or other underlying health conditions. Unlike anosmia, hyposmia is often more difficult to treat, and individuals may require medical intervention to address the underlying cause and restore their sense of smell.

Preventing Sneezing-Related Smell Loss

While it's not always possible to prevent sneezing, there are steps we can take to minimize the impact of sneezing on our sense of smell. First, it's important to maintain good nasal hygiene by regularly blowing our nose and using saline nasal sprays to keep our nasal passages clean and clear. Additionally, avoiding known allergens and irritants can help to reduce the frequency of sneezing and minimize inflammation in our nasal passages.

Treating Sneezing-Related Smell Loss

If you're experiencing a loss of smell due to sneezing, the first step is to identify and treat the underlying cause. This may involve using over-the-counter allergy medications, decongestants, or antihistamines to reduce nasal congestion and inflammation. In more severe cases, a healthcare professional may recommend additional treatments such as prescription medications, nasal corticosteroids, or even surgery to address the root cause of the issue.

When to See a Healthcare Professional

If you're experiencing a persistent or worsening loss of smell, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help to determine the underlying cause of the issue and recommend appropriate treatment options to restore your sense of smell. Additionally, a sudden or unexplained loss of smell can be an early warning sign of certain medical conditions, such as a sinus infection or even COVID-19, so it's important to seek medical advice if you're experiencing this symptom.


In conclusion, sneezing and our sense of smell are indeed connected, as sneezing can temporarily disrupt the functioning of our olfactory system. However, this connection is typically short-lived, and our sense of smell should return to normal shortly after sneezing. By maintaining good nasal hygiene and treating any underlying causes of sneezing, we can help to minimize the impact of sneezing on our sense of smell and ensure that we continue to enjoy the scents and smells of our world.

Written By Alistair McKenzie

I am Alistair McKenzie, a pharmaceutical expert with a deep passion for writing about medications, diseases, and supplements. With years of experience in the industry, I have developed an extensive knowledge of pharmaceutical products and their applications. My goal is to educate and inform readers about the latest advancements in medicine and the most effective treatment options. Through my writing, I aim to bridge the gap between the medical community and the general public, empowering individuals to take charge of their health and well-being.

View all posts by: Alistair McKenzie

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