Q. My son complains that he cannot taste his food sometimes. He will complain of the problem for a few days in a row and then his sense of taste returns. Should I be concerned? Is there anything we can do to fix the problem?
A.In order to sort this out, it will be important to do a little more investigating. In the majority of cases, a perceived taste issue is really caused by a problem with the sense of smell. Taste and smell are intimately related. When food is chewed, the aromas travel upward and are detected by the olfactory nerves, or smell receptors. The next time that your son notices his dulled sense of taste, he should test his sense of smell to see if this is the root of the problem. This can be done by having him close his eyes and sniff peppermint gum or candy.
Smell disorders can be caused by anything that causes nasal obstruction such as sinus infections, allergies or colds. Occasionally, smell disturbance can be a sign of nasal polyps. The area where the olfactory nerves enter the brain can be injured from a frontal head injury. Smoking, aging, radiation therapy, and certain medications are other possible causes. In rare instances, certain types of tumors can present with a loss of smell.
Because your son’s loss of taste is transient, then the underlying cause is most likely also transient. Therefore, I would consider allergies or sinus problems at the top of the list. Your child’s healthcare provider may advise you to have him seen by an ear, nose, and throat specialist for further evaluation.