London Smell Clinic

How important is your sense of smell? It is probably the most underestimated sense and is frequently taken for granted. It is only when this sense is lost or reduced that we realize how much we rely upon it. As a loss of sense of smell is not obvious to others around the sufferer, the lack of empathy towards its impact on an individual can be frustrating.

A loss of the sense of smell is known as anosmia. A partial loss of smell is known as hyposmia.

The smell of the countryside, the sea-air & the aromas of food can all provide positive sensory stimulation that contribute to our quality of life.  Smell is also linked with memory pathways and a loss of these associations can be upsetting. Depression and anxiety symptoms are common in patients with anosmia.

The sense of smell also has an important practical function.  There is the ability to detect the foul odour of expired food, recognition of body odour & detecting smoke or gas.  In this way, a loss of sense of smell can have serious health consequences.


My taste has also been affected…

Patients who have lost their sense of smell often complain of a loss of taste. Taste is detected by taste buds/cells located on the tongue and around the oral cavity. However, appreciation of the flavour of food is dependent upon your sense of smell by a process called retronasal olfaction. In this way, people who have lost their sense of smell may be able to tell the difference between salt and sweet but the flavour and enjoyment of food is altered. The good news is when the sense of smell returns, flavour is also usually restored.

Mr Irfan Syed

Mr Irfan Syed graduated from University College Hospital, London and completed his ENT higher surgical training on the London training programme including Paediatric ENT surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mr Syed is a Consultant ENT Surgeon at University Hospital Lewisham treating all aspects of general and paediatric ENT conditions and has a specialist interest in rhinology (nose & sinuses).

He regularly sees patients with smell disorders both in the NHS and private practice. He has written a number of articles on the subject of olfaction (smell) and has presented internationally on the subject.

He gained fellowship sub-specialty training in Rhinology & Facial Plastic surgery at St George’s Hospital, London.

He was awarded the British Rhinological Society Bursary Award for training at the Sino-Nasal Institute of Florida, USA and the European Rhinological Society Award for training at the Amsterdam Medical Centre. His international training has also taken him to Paris and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
Mr Syed is well recognized for his role in post-graduate surgical teaching and is course director for The London Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Course.

He is the author of a number of textbooks in medicine and surgery. He has published extensively in the peer-reviewed literature and presented his work internationally.
Mr Syed has been invited to teach on a number of national courses including the the East Anglian Sinus, Orbit & Skull Base Course and the Guildford Advanced Sinus & Skull base Course.

In addition to his clinical work he is currently a specialist advisor to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).


Myth: There is nothing that can be done to improve the sense of smell

Patients that are referred to the clinic often have been told that there is no treatment for loss of sense of smell. Patients should be properly assessed and examined to ascertain any reversible causes of smell loss. Even those patients with no identifiable cause, there are treatment options that can contribute to improvement in the sense of smell.

Myth: If you have lost your sense of smell for more than a few weeks it is unlikely to recover

Although it is true that there is more likelihood of recovery for patients that present sooner, there are cases of patients recovering the sense of smell many years after losing it.

Myth: If I lose my sense of smell after once my bad cold/virus has got better, the damage to my smell is permanent

Post viral olfactory loss can occur gradually after an infection and the initial symptoms need not be particularly severe. Recovery of sense of smell is actually more common in this group and can be helped along with treatments.

What does the assessment involve?

A full medical and olfactory history and examination which may include fibre-optic nasendoscopy, high resolution imaging and qualitative/quantitative smell & taste testing. In this way, treatment can be targeted depending upon the underlying cause.

COVID-19 –Related Olfactory Dysfunction

There is a growing body of evidence to support the role of COVID-19 infection in impairing the sense of smell.  It has now been recognized as a symptom of COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and as a sign of infection by Public Health England.  Patients should therefore follow the current guidelines of self  isolation for 7 days in the presence of sudden onset smell loss.  The latest update from the UK Chief Medical Officer on 18th May 2020 suggests the individual’s household should isolate for 14 days.

You can now ask for a COVID-19 antigen test  (swab inside nose and throat) as soon as you develop symptoms.

Once you have recovered from an acute COVID-19 infection and completed your period of isolation we can advise regarding the next steps of management.

Where can I be seen?

There are a number of clinics where we can arrange your assessment.  This may involve an initial remote (telephone/video)  consultation in the first instance.  We are accepted by most insurers. Please contact us on or call 0208 183 1111 for details if self paying.

HCA The Shard

King Edward VII Hospital, London

BMI Blackheath Hospital

LycaHealth Canary Wharf

LycaHealth Orpington

Selected Publications

Hyposmia.  Syed I, Philpott C.Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2015 Mar;76(3):C41-2, C44-5. doi: 10.12968/hmed.2015.76.3.C41.PMID: 25761818 Review.

Assessing the sense of smell.  Syed I, Philpott C.Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2015 Mar;76(3):C38-9. doi: 10.12968/hmed.2015.76.3.C38.PMID: 25761817 Review.

Personal Accounts of Anosmia Study – The experiences of anosmia sufferers in the UK: A qualitative study. Syed, Irfan; Bradshaw, Timothy; Erskine, Sally; Philpott, Carl.
2014 Paper presented at European Rhinologic Congress, Amsterdam, United Kingdom.

Resources   This is a UK based charity for patients affected by smell and taste disorders.  It provides a great educational resource for patients with smell dysfunction.  This is a UK based charity providing support and information for patients who have lost their sense of smell.

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