Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The nose doesn't know

In case you were concerned for my health after my lengthy bout of travelers' ailments, I am pleased to announce that it has improved greatly...in some respects.

For the past couple days, instead of hacking my lungs out every hour on the hour, I content myself with a little conservative wheezing at bedtime and a hearty amount of messy throat-clearing coughs when I get up. Then I'm more or less good for the rest of the day.

But if you thought I was in the clear, oh ho no! How naive!

The day I returned to Maryland from Hawaii, I felt my nose begin to get stuffed up. At this point, I'm pretty certain that late May in Maryland produces some kind of allergen that apparently only affects me. It seems like my worst stuffy noses always appear around this time. But most of the time, I'm either traveling or returning from travel, so I'm never quite sure if it's just the change of environment that sets it off.

In any case, this time, aggressive treatment with nasal steroids and antihistamines and decongestant pills kept my nose from ever getting completely blocked (thank heavens; usually I have to resort to the oxymetazoline spray, but I guess I got it early enough this time!), but I've been drug-dependent for almost a week now.

On Sunday night, the first day I felt confident enough to stop taking decongestants, I was eating my favorite food – cookie dough – when I noticed it tasted like nothing at all. I realized something unusual that has never happened to me before: while I could still breathe through my nose, I had lost my sense of smell!

Monday morning, upon waking, I still couldn't smell a blasted thing, so I reluctantly took another decongestant and soon was smelling the roses again (and the strawberries, and the flour, and all the other ingredients I put into my cookie batter that I was actually, for a change, going to cook!).

However, by evening, again sitting down to eat cookie dough, I found it utterly flavorless—again!

This morning, still experiencing the world in a state of olfactory blindness, I decided to try out my neti pot again (it's never seemed to help much with my congestion) and zapped my nose with a new bottle (not expired, as have been the last two I used) of fluticasone.

And then I could smell – sort of – for most of the day.

I bet you can guess what happened next—I couldn't smell anything again. And then I could. And then I couldn't. And then I could. I believe my sense of smell will eventually return to its pre-infection state of virtuosity (I've actually become quite proud of my sense of smell in recent times, since I spent my formative years with chronic congestion barely ever smelling anything), but in the meantime, I'm pretty excited whenever I get to smell anything. The scent of baking asphalt? Woohoo! A fart? That's great! Any terrible smell is better than being deprived of the most underrated of senses!