A Cold Remedy and the Loss of Smell

The Food & Drug Administration issues a warning to stop using Zicam, an over-the-counter cold remedy. The warning is based on reports that Zicam can cause a loss of smell. Rod Rice reports.

Zicam is produced by Matrixx Initiatives who says no plaintiff has even won a lawsuit due to Zicam and the loss of smell, but the AP reports the company has settled hundreds of such cases in recent years.

Dr. Anthony Brissett is a head and neck surgeon at The Methodist Hospital and an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

He says the reason for the loss of smell isn't clear.

"However we do know that this product has a zinc component to it and by having a zinc component we know that  that can sometimes affect the nerves that are responsible for smell."

Some of the 130 complaints the FDA has received are due to permanent loss of smell.   Dr. Brissett says that can happen.

"Often times when the nerves are affected it make it difficult for them to regenerate on their own."

Dr. Brissett says losing the sense of smell could be life threatening.

"It would allow you to identify if foods are spoiled or putrid. Additionally it also allows you to protect yourself from noxious material. It can allow you to identify whether there is smoke or fire or even a gas leak."

And eating would not be enjoyable without the ability to smell.

"Taste from the tongue is really very crude. It allows you to taste bitter, sweet, salt and sour, but all of those other tastes that we get typically are related to your smell."

Matrixx says its products are safe but may voluntarily remove Zicam from store shelves.
 

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...