Problems with Taste

Protecting Your Sense of Taste

Taste, or gustation, is one of our most robust senses. Taste helps us recognize when food is good or bad for us. But, even more important, loss of taste can cause a loss of appetite, especially in older adults, which can lead to loss of weight, poor nutrition, weakened immunity, and even death.

These steps may help you protect your sense of taste.

Avoid Upper Respiratory and Middle Ear Infections

You can help prevent problems with taste caused by respiratory infections such as the flu by washing your hands frequently, especially during the winter months. Also, get a flu shot every year to prevent influenza and other serious respiratory conditions that can result from the flu.

Review Your Medications

If you are taking medications such as certain antibiotics or antihistamines or other medications and notice a persistent bad taste in your mouth, talk to your doctor. You may be able to adjust or change your medicine to one that will not cause a problem with taste. In many cases, people regain their sense of taste when they stop taking medications or when the illness or injury clears up.

Avoid Head Injuries

Previous surgery or trauma to the head can impair your sense of taste because the taste nerves may be cut, blocked or physically damaged.

To reduce the risk of injuries to the head, everyone should wear a seat belt when riding in a car. People who participate in sports, such as bicycling, should wear protective helmets.

Avoid Exposure to Toxic Substances

Sometimes exposure to certain chemicals, such as insecticides and solvents, can impair taste. Avoid contact with these substances, and if you do come in contact with them and experience a problem with your sense of taste, see your doctor.

Take Care of Dental Problems

Gum disease can cause problems with taste, as can dentures and inflammation or infections in the mouth. Practice good oral hygiene, keep up to date with your dental appointments, and tell your dentist if you notice any problems with your sense of taste.

Don’t Smoke

Smokers often report an improved sense of taste after quitting. For free help to quit smoking, visit Smokefree.gov