Changes in Taste, Smell, and Hormones After Brain Injury

Changes in Taste, Smell, and Hormones After Brain Injury

My sister fell down some stairs in March 2012. She was rushed by air ambulance to the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. Ever since her fall, she can no longer taste or smell anything. Her hands and feet are always freezing cold. Will her taste or smell ever come back, and why she is so cold all the time?


Loss of taste and smell has been reported to be as high as 25 percent after traumatic brain injury. The loss of taste is generally due to loss of smell. Loss of smell has many possible causes including injury to the nose, nasal passages, sinuses, olfactory nerve, and the brain. The olfactory nerve brings the sensation of smell from your nose to the brain. Since this nerve passes from the nose to the brain, it is at high risk of injury when there is trauma to the head.

There are some medications that can also cause impairments in smell or taste that are commonly prescribed for people with traumatic brain injury, including some antidepressants, seizure medications, antipsychotics, muscle relaxants, and narcotic analgesics. A close evaluation by your sister’s physician is important to make sure there are no reversible causes of loss of taste and smell. If her senses of taste or smell have not returned a year post-injury, it’s unlikely, unfortunately, that they will.

Click here to see BrainLine’s video with Dr. Greenwald on the topic of changes of taste and smell after TBI.

As far as feeling cold all the time, it has become recognized that there can be changes in hormones after traumatic brain injury. A careful assessment of your sister for reasons she feels so cold should include blood tests that measure her hormones (thyroid, cortisone, sex related hormones, and growth hormone).

Please refer to this comprehensive article regarding the treatment of headaches.

More on TBI-related headaches.

Spasticity is another cause of pain more commonly seen after moderate to severe brain injury.

Watch this video with Dr. Greenwald about TBI-related spasticity.

Posted on BrainLine June 9, 2014. Reviewed July 26, 2018.

Comments (201)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Nobody I know has ever experienced these odd smells before so it's really hard to explain it when it happens. I totally understand how you're feeling Mitch. Recently I've started using scented oils in my house so that there is a pleasant fragrance to hopefully take the place of these Phantom smells.

Tish, exactly this: A swing chain! Thank you
I was searching tbi and metalic taste and found your comment. Perfect

I slipped on the ice and banged the back of my head several decades ago. I was discharged same day from hospital after brief checks. I was in bed for days with nausea and dizziness. I lost most of my sense of smell not straight away but soon after the fall. Only had about 20% left of this sense. This went on for over 10 years then I managed to regain 75% of sense of smell. It was such a subtle gradual return.

a year ago i was shot in the face and the bullet traveled threw my tounge and the roof of my mouth and then exited near my left eye.i now wear an obturator to plug in the hole in the roof of my mouth so i can talk normal,my issue is my smell and taste has been gone since this happened and i wanted to know is there any hope in regaining my sense of smell and taste.

I fell and it the back of my head on the tile. I have no recollection of icu or trama center and I have no smell and very limited taste.
I’m still alive and that’s all I care about. Although it’s a strange along with headaches that randomly come, make the best of it. Life is short and don’t dwell on the BS of sensory sensations.
That’s my two cents, so don’t read this wrong.

That is the attitude to work towards. At some point, have to move forward instead of destroying yourself by developing different thinking. Mind control.

I'm quite surprised that only two people said they got it from a prescription drug. I bet that most people don't realize the possibilities because they trust their doctors too much like I did until they ruined me completely for life when it wasn't even necessary. Matter fact I bet alot of you lost your taste/smell as a result of the medications given you after initial treatment of the head injury. Of course I do believe that head injury can cause this by itself too but still, there is an entire community of people out there that are severely compromised by fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Cipro and Levaquin and Avelox among a few others. It was a slow death sentence for me, damage to the liver kidneys and bladder and I have a very debilitating condition called MCS. There are only a few chemicals in existence that can do this, one is mustard gas and then there are the antibiotics I mentioned and then there is roundup.

I know tons of people that have lost their sense of taste/smell simply by taking a course of these deadly antibiotics. It's very interesting that two of you have regained some after a blow to the head but it would be rough to try purposely finding the sweet spot to purposely bang your head but it's an idea. Spread the word that these antibiotics were designed as a last line when everything else fails but I was given Cipro to "rule out a bacterial infection". Well it ruled it out and it also ruled a decent life for me.

Not everyone is affected but doctors ignore the fact that a percentage of patients react poorly to just about anything so they should weigh out the risks and prescribe accordingly. It is now known taht people wo get permanently affected by these antibiotics all have genetic marker in common and there is technology now for doctors to screen you first. Good luck and spread the word. My life is over but if I can save a few people from the same fate I would be much happier.

I also have phantom smells, I think it smells like some kind of chemicals. Nobody around me understands. I had surgery for brain tumor and then radiation. Smells started shortly after. Now I have had horrible health effects diagnosis 10yrs. Later to much radiation.Nothing they can do, so living day to day. Horrible balance and mobility issues. So wish I had not had radiation. At that moment I thought dr knows best. I was traumatized after surgery I probably agreed to anything. People say I need get out more. I can't scared I fall all the time. This is not really living

I had a fall a month ago now where I hit the back of my head first on cement. It caused a left frontal lobe hemorage and I lost my sense of taste and smell. I was thinking it would just take a week or so to come back once the swelling was down, but now I’m worried it may not after reading some of these other stories.

I found out I had a pituitary brain tumor in 2014 an I had it removed January 2015 and they went thru my nose had to drill another hole in my skull. Well every since my surgery i lost all sense of smell and taste. The doctor said it should come back in 6-12 months but it never did. Is there any hope it might still come back over 4 yrs later? I've tried the medi pots to flush nose clean. To no avail. Food is tasting even worse as times go by. Is there any hope?

Taste buds are replaced all the time generally maximum ten days but every five to seven years there is a massive changeover of your taste buds. That's why you hate Vegetables as a child but dont mind them later someone might hate mustard then out of nowhere start liking it so there is a chance when you get a major change in replacement tastebuds you might notice hey they are coming back. My taste buds and sense of smell comes and goes. Because I also had a whiplash and concussion and was avoiding pain meds I was rubbing organic peppermint oil on the back of my neck and shoulder area. Noticed it was helping to wake up my sense of smell at times but have to be careful get it near eyes or face can burn and can damage eyes severely so I'd make sure after putting it on my neck to wash my hands right away you can accidentally forget and rub your eyes. Remember its medicine dont think its organic natural and safe be cautious with it. Get it in your eyes you can burn them loose them. Anyways it relieves spasms and deadens pain for a few hours beautifully. Good luck to you.

I fell 3 times banging my head on a tiled floor a week before Xmas due to my own stupidity of drinking too much since then I have no sense of smell or taste my left side of my brain feels numb and aches at night when I sleep on that side I have not had it checked out do you think I should ? X

I lost my sense of smell 18 years ago after falling off a boat on a ramp hit the back of my head !! I pray every day my smell will come back !! At least I didn’t go blind !! I can watch my kids grow, yes I have a difficult moment because of the loss of smell, my taste is great !! Maybe god willing I will regain at least some sense of smell good luck to all and remember never give up life is good !!

I slipped and fell at work and fractured my skull in two places and had a subdural and epidural hematoma. Bad constant headaches that continue today and no sense of smell or taste. This happened in October 2018.
Praying my headache goes away and my smell and taste return because who can have a appetite if you cannot enjoy the smell and taste of your food?

With my concussion had all the symptoms that seems to be the norm vision ringing in the ears balance fatigue in tears for no reason couldn't stand noise movement tv cell phone loved a dark room laying in bed no movement with a damp towel covering eyes. One day came downstairs and my wife was cleaning the stainless steel sink. I asked her what she was doing she said cleaning the sink with bleach. I said no way I would smell it then grabbed the bottle on the counter smelled it and said to her this is water it's not bleach and she said its bleach and went to smell it again and she grabbed it from me and said your not suppose to smell bleach you'll do damage to yourself. Then I realized I had lost my sense of smell. Now my neck from my injury was tender but hoped the discomfort would go away and with a concussion and all the nastiness going on with it my neck was low on the list with me. Remembering what day it was or standing without being nauseous in physiotherapiy someone pulled a curtain in front of me with dots on it and I almost through up so a little discomfort in the neck no big deal. I was in the middle of living with dementia and alzheimers anyways woke up one day with neck in full blown spasms trigger points all over waves of pain going across forhead shooting from back of head. Had physiotherapy appointment every day so when I went told physiotherapist please my neck is bad gone from level two to eight please look at it. I lie down shirt off face down next thing I know she is inserting needles acupuncture as each trigger point releases it hurts like crazy but then helps six needles later I hear her say you have a bad whiplash a few more needles than she presses on a trigger point at the base of the skull in the centre where your spine joins your skull agony I arch up then blackout maybe a couple of minutes wake up headache gone neck pain gone feel wide awake amazing. Now I still have to get accuputure two years later cause neck is still not the best goes into spasm the sternalcledo mastoid anyways the acupuncture releases horrmones enpholyns endorphins anyways helped to restore my smell not perfect and my taste buds are perfect but have some. Now I recently looked up acupuncture for regaining sense of smell and they have lots of documentation about it and you know it's not some dam chemical with side effects that hurt you so give it a try what do you have to lose. Pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors dont like it because medication is an endless gravy train with side effects . Acupuncture they say even causes the body's immune system to function better cortisone is released into joints it's a natural pain killer so what restores better rhythm in your system interconnects to the brain to maybe help restore hormone and chemical balance which maybe what triggers senses like smell taste eyes oh yea I have a dropping eyelid that droops less for a day or two after and your eyes are wide open anyways look it up nothing to loose to try it. Just get a good acupuncturist. I have one that says no pain no gain it hurts when it releases but feels amazing afterwards. You also feel more clear headed for a couple of days at least.

I had a similar head injury in 2010.
Loss my sence of smell and taste.
Sometimes i think I can smell soaps, shampoos,etc. Anything with water added,but its all the same smell.
Careful gaining weight like me.
I used to try all kinds of foods that I might be able to taste but still not and #s heavier.
I wish you the best in getting your senses back.

In 2012 j had a car accident ..head and brain injury..why have I lost my smell and taste now plus going throu an mri scan for almost an hour why have I not had my results!!!! Calls are getting fobbed of

I had a concussion with a broken skull and bruising on the brain four months ago. My sense of smell is completely gone as well as my taste. I have had a headache day and night since the accident, ringing on my left ear and it seems like my brain doesn’t work as well as before. Two months ago I started “smelling and tasting” something chemical ... a phantom smell. :(

Is there anything to get rid of it? It’s driving me crazy.

I am not a doctor. But look into your pituitary gland its behind your sinuses. It secretes hormones if damaged or under pressure might be doing this also if pressing on optic chiasm effects vision suprachiasmatic nucleus effects your body's circadian rhythm clock by communicating to your pineal gland to release melatonin to get you to sleep. Basically informs your body when its day and night. I have had a concussion my problem is same symptoms as most but now I also absorbed information and my head puts puzzles of information together. The pituitary gland is pea sized but if it's not working right can effect a lot of your symptoms. Look up the words for yourself. They will treat symptoms not look for causes. Have blurry vision in one eye fatigue nauseous maybe a drooping eye lid light bothering you noise how is the smell and taste buds. Unbalanced hormones coming from pituitary gland can leave you feeling cold at times also.

I had a mild concussion last Aug (walked into car bike rack) and hit front of head between eyes and nose.
Got vertigo from that. ER docs did not diagnose concussion. Only during eval with PT specialist (I was off balance from injury) was the mild concussion recognized -mainly by my symptoms.
Sometime later I started smelling something once in awhile. Couldn’t figure out. Had many theories , but just last week I wonder if I’m having phantom odor. Any one have thoughts about that? It also may be a disgrstivevproblem, but I’ve never smelled that odor before. Can’t find an external cause.

This is happening to me and has for yrs. I had a really bad injury to my head that has left me with lasting vertigo 7 yrs ago. The "smell taste" this is driving me nuts.

On feb 2016 I fell and banged my head and the side of my neck, I was taken to a&e where I was discharged 3 hours. It was about 3 weeks before I full recovered but I noticed a small change I my taste buds, but in December the same year I got a very bad cold which took 2 lots of antibiotics to clear it. When I was at the end of my second lot of tablets I sneezed and to my shock what I sneezed up was as thick as clear silicone and very sticky . After this cool my sense of taste and smell took a new direction, I can still smell and taste but everything smells and tastes awful and I am get to a stage where I don’t want to eat . I am seeing ent and I have been on flexonase massless drops for three months and he sent me fo a ct scan so I am going back for the results in January 2019 but don’t hold out much hope

I suffered a head injury about 6 years ago in which my skull was fractured and damaged my frontal lobe, specifically the motor and sensory cortices.

Ever since, I've constantly felt like I'm in a moving vehicle (motion sickness), but my sense of smell didn't diminish. It amplified and made me much more sensitive to smell and taste. I've been hallucinating the smell of coca cola ever since I accidentally hit my head on the car door frame this morning. Another common phantom smell is chocolate, or onions. Days where it's onions are really bad and I usually can't eat those days.

It's always morbidly interesting to see how this stuff affects other people. I hope your sister recovers. ):

I lost my snse of smell after fall dawn on the floor last year nowadays i can feel the odour of smoke and burning things and also the smell of perfumes but i can't differenciat in bad and good odour.
Is it the process of smell recovery .
Will it be improve or not.

Unfortunately i am unable to answer your question . Because i am here looking for the same answer. I now have a brain injury due to a car incident. Since then i am now having the same case as you . Can sense odor but unable to tell what the odor is exactly . Just thought i should share . God bless you Dear !

I was hit by a car as a pedestrian in March 2018 and was unconscious for less than 30 mins (as I was told) and have a TBI. My headaches decreased since then, but I have lost my sense of smell completely. My taste is definitely not where it was before, but it is slowly coming back. I feel like I am so lucky as it could have been worse but I still am so sad to "miss" out on things in life, not to mention the danger aspect. Will I ever get my smell back.? :(

I had TBI at 22 yrs old.  I lost 100% taste & smell for 7yrs. Then one day... I smelled a rose on a bush while sitting on a porch. I gained a lot of taste & smell back. Not always distinct (with eyes closed) but I can taste & smell now. But not gas/air smells. But when my brain says "DANGER!" I go find someone to tell me the smell.. propane? burning rubber? etc. But I have enjoyed food tastes & smells..which adds a lot to life & safety.

I have the same problem with furnace heat smell.I smell like something is burning and like diesel.
I had skull fracture 10 years ago.

Same thing with me! I had a TBI in 2007. I lost my smell and taste completely. I gradually got my taste back over time, mind you it was rough because everything tasted awful. After approx 5yrs I started to be able to smell horrible smells like gases etc. Well here we are in 2018 and over tbe last 6-8 months my smell has returned and full force. I smell better than anyone i know. It's amazing! Downfall I ambow super sensitive to candles and other string smells, they made me sick and I can literally taste the smells. But, I'll take it because I can smell!! 11yrs later, what are the odds of that!? The brain is a crazy thing!

Thanks for giving me hope that I would one day be able to smell again. I lost my sense is smell over three years ago and have been depressed ever since. Thanks to you after reading your post, I will definitely keep hope alive.

I too lost my sense of taste 2 yrs. Now I pray every day it will return. Had a grand mal seizure, busted my shoulder. Neuro has done usual tests but no answers. Makes you miserable. I understand you. I thought I was alone. Pray together.

I had a head trauma last year causing me to lose my sense of smell. Over the last couple of weeks I have a burning smell constantly in my nose. Could this be my sense of smell returning?

I had the same thing tbi in 2008 where now in 2018 and i still cant smell. But i do remember that burning smell after i got out of hospital. Can you smell now ? Maan i hope it comes back

I have the same thing happening right now. I lost taste and smell in July 2018 from a head injury and I have a constant burning smell that just started recently. I'm hoping it's everything starting to come back.

I had a TBI in January and lost my taste and smell apart from a very unpleasant taste and smell which I can't really describe and a nasal drip that makes me feel constantly sick. I struggle to eat because of this so feel very weak and shaky all the time. My memory is not the same and I repeat myself. I can sympathise with all of you and send you good luck.

Have you tested your nose drip? It might be csf leak. Go and get it check. Because pf csf you are experiencing memory related symptoms

If you are having bad headaches and the post nasal drip has a metallic taste you may want to be checked for a small tear causing spinal fluid leak since you did suffer trauma!!!

Ditto, hope you get better soon!

I suffered a TB.I when I was 28 and suffer with the same symptoms
I also get random smells that aren't pleasant and make me sick
Was wondering if it's a fandom smell and taste that I'm getting
The same that someone would get after losing a limb

Good luck all

Exactly what I experienced. Have not been able to taste or smell since September 2002. All of 2003, I was getting phantom smells and taste. It was terrible. I got very thin.

I was hit by a car in 1993, while I was standing in the road out of my car, after a car accident I’d just been in. I was in a coma for 6 months, and spent the next 5 and a half months in the hospital. Anyway, my sense of taste is just fine; but, as with my sense of smell, that gradually worsened down until now, that it is completely gone. I am thankful that I survived that car accident. God is truly wonderful!

For over ten weeks now I have no sense of smell and loss of taste too I have tryed home remedies but nothing seems to help. And I went to my GP he issues a prescription of anti biotics they not worked either it’s very frustrating I getting to the point not worth eating as I can’t taste a thing anyone recommend anything I can or should do ???

I fell down my steps 6 weeks ago and was diagnosed with an Occipital skull fracture and moderate concussion. After a day in hospital was released. Had a baseball size hematoma on my head. No MD would aspirate the blood clot between my skull and scalp. After 2nd day I noticed I lost my sense of smell and taste. I am an infusion RN and after the Hematoma exerted so much pressure my skin finally broke open and I was able to Express all the old blood out, irrigated with sterile saline and finally it formed a scab. My wounds are healed but I still have no sense of smell or taste. I don't smell anything or taste anything. I eat when my stomach growls till I am full but very frustrated. I love food. As a nurse I know loss of smell also causes loss of taste. I wish there was a study we could participate in...afterall they study everything these days. Please share, maybe as a population we can get someone to notice us. I don't want to live this way the rest of my life.

Hi..i lost my sense of smell and taste in early 2017. I thought it was a sinus problem and ignored it; i was actually glad i i was spared the smell of the diapers i had to change at mid year, my eyesight began to fail in my right eye. Docs called for an MRI scan which revealed a big tumor growing in the middle of my skull. The tumors growth over many years had damaged the olfactory nerve permanently. Luckily, it was removed successfully but my sense of smell and taste hasn't returned since. I do smell new scents i have never smellt before, thankfully the smells are nice and appealing.

Some time has passed since you left tour comment, i am curious if the mystery of the loss of your sense of smell and taste has been solved.

If not, i would suggest an MRI scan.

With my recent TBI, I have no taste, smell and a smokey taste to me, in my mouth. All three are troublesome, the Smokey taste the worst.

I have this too have you over come it or is it back to normal? Ive been trying to find the answer or a way to get rid of that smokey taste and smell its annoying ive had it for 5 weeks now since injury.

Hi Charles - after a few months post-injury everything smelt and tasted like burnt coffee. Sorry to say that this lasted over 6 months only to be replaced by the smell and taste of fish. Two years on, I occasionally smell paint / chemicals. Some food types still don't taste as 'normal'. Mushrooms for example taste of fish. I got through the smokey phase by cutting out coffee and eating a lot of 'clean' foods like fruit and veg with no after-taste. Acupuncture also helped greatly in the early stages and I noticed a step-change in smell and taste. Best wishes

I have the same thing from a concussion in May. This happened weeks after my fall. My Dr. has me on zinc for over 3 weeks now and no change. He told me it takes time. It is a horrible feeling!