Does Asthma Increase Your Sense of Smell?
Last updated: August 2023
I have this uncanny ability to smell asthma triggers. Anytime I walk into a room, I can smell if there is something in there that might trigger my asthma. In other words, I can smell if there are mold or dust mites the moment I enter a room. In this way, I have an increased sense of smell. Or so it seems.
Does this sound weird? Well, yeah! And perhaps that is why I only shared my uncanny skill with a select few people. And even then I often regretted that I said anything. "You can't smell triggers," one of my friends said. "You are just being paranoid!"
I alluded to my talent early on in my marriage to my now ex-wife. We were looking for a house. And the first 10 houses we inspected I could smell a trigger. Some of these houses were otherwise very nice houses, but I rejected them based on my smell of a trigger. I remember my ex saying, "We're never going to find a house if you're allergic to every one!"
So, my increased sense of smell is a blessing, but it is sometimes a burden.
My history of detecting asthma triggers
I never smelled any asthma triggers in my bedroom. In fact, the entire upstairs of the house I grew up in was asthma-trigger-free. But, as soon as I went into the basement, I could smell dust mites. And so I learned to avoid the basement.
One day my brothers were rollerskating in the basement, and I could smell dust mites even while upstairs when they did this. So, I told my mom about what I smelled, and I asked her to have my brothers stop roller skating in the basement. But she didn't. And I had an asthma attack. From this experience, she learned to trust me.
I went off to college when I was 18, and I never smelled asthma triggers in the dorms. And my nose was correct, as I did not have trouble with my asthma during my college years.
When I graduated college, I moved back close to where I grew up. This would have been in 1998. Of course, I needed an apartment. The first apartment I looked at was very nice, and it had a very nice price of $200 a month. I was thinking I could easily afford that with my new job as a respiratory therapist. But, as soon as I walked into that apartment I could smell a trigger. I had to pass.
Recently my dad called me and said he fixed up his cabin really nicely. He put in a new floor and really cleaned it out well. He said, “I bet you can stay here now without having trouble with your breathing.” I was happy that my dad was thinking of me. But I was still quite skeptical. And, as I figured, as soon as I opened the door to the cabin I could smell asthma triggers. It’s a cabin in the woods, for crying out loud. It has that musty cabin smell. I figure it’s probably mold and dust mites.
Is it just me with this uncanny sense of smell?
The experiences I just described I have just brushed aside over the years. I have rarely, if ever, discussed this with anyone before now. It is not like I go around thinking I can smell better than people who do not have asthma.
Then I saw a comment here in this asthma community. One person wrote, "Sometimes I think we asthmatics have an increased sense of smell.” And this caught my attention. And this is what inspired this article. This comment made me think: “Maybe I’m not alone in experiencing this phenomenon.”
So I brought this topic up with one of my coworkers with asthma. And she said, "Definitely. I enter a house and I can smell cat pee right away, and I know to get out right away." She added, "I enter a hotel room and I can smell right away if there's something that might trigger an attack. And I know to find a different hotel."
I have also experienced this. This is why I only stay at 4- or 5-star hotels. It sure costs a lot more than cheaper hotels, but I think they do a better job of keeping their rooms asthma-friendly.
Does asthma make our sense of smell stronger?
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