"I don't know, she's gone to Argentina."


Really loud noises can cause deafness. Really bright light can cause blindness. Extreme tactile stimulation can cause numbness.

So: Could a really, really, really bad or strong smell make you lose your sense of smell?

I’m certainly no expert in that subject, but it seems extremely basic to me: Olfaction is direct stimulation from chemical ions. Certainly them things, in quantity, and of the right kind, can etch any part o’ ya they want into nothin’ much at all.

Ray (no-nose)

Long-term exposure to a given smell numbs your sensation of it, good or bad. Even if it is particularly strong, soon you can’t smell it.

I don’t think a smell can instantaneously “stun” your sense of smell. But there are smells that will cause an involuntary reflex to back away. Not necessarily unpleasant, but something about the odor clicks something in you that makes you retreat.

My chem teacher had a sample of such a substance. I wafted (scientifically) some vapors, and I retreated as if I were electrically shocked.

In the “good old days” little chunks of camphor were (gently) chucked into the nostrils to open the passageways during a cold.

I know of two people (ages about 60 and 70) who admit to being without a sense of smell because of this treatment.

Oh, I’m gonna keep using these #%@&* codes 'til I get 'em right.

what’s all this got to do with argentina?

I’d have to agree with AWB. Back in my days working for a pharmaceutical company, I had to go down to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and collect marine samples for chemical extraction and drug screening. When you first walked into the sample room, you were hit with the smell of a thousand rotting fish/ sponges/ other invertebrates/ you-name-it, but within about two hours, I couldn’t smell it anymore. I had originally thought the smell had dissipated, but the occasional person walking by who would say “Jesus Christ, what the hell died in here?” let me know it was still there.

The worst part was when I left for the day because I couldn’t smell it on my clothes, or inside my car…until the next day after I had showered, then it hit me all over again.


You’re talking about olfactory fatique. Way back in the summer, Cecil did a bit on stainless steel scrubs. I did an experiment with my son, XRay was going to do some chemistry experiment about it. Nothing ever materialized.

olfactory fatigue - does have an evolutionary sense to it. If the first odor (your cave) didn’t “fatigue” the next odor (large black bear) wouldn’t be able to warn you of impending doom.

Camphor is still the only smelly thing I can think of that can destroy your sense of smell.

Oh, I’m gonna keep using these #%@&* codes 'til I get 'em right.

I’m sure that there are substance which could damage your olfactory nerves so that you lost your ability to smell things. Whether you could do this without damaging your lungs so badly that you lost your ability to breathe I’m not so positive about, but I guess it could happen.

This is a little different but related:

Hydrogen sulfide is a fairly foul-smelling substance. The odor of sewage or rotten eggs comes partially from hydrogen sulfide (and the stinky stuff they put in natural gas is a related compound with a somewhat similar odor). You can detect it at fairly low concentrations; this is a good thing, because in addition to smelling bad, it’s toxic.

However, in high concentrations, you can’t smell it. It anesthetizes the receptors, and the odor disappears. I can remember doing experiments where the gas would be generated, and being told that if we could smell it we were fine; the time to worry would be if we DIDN’T smell it.

what’s all this got to do with argentina?
what’s all this got to do with argentina?
what’s all this got to do with argentina?
what’s all this got to do with argentina?
what’s all this got to do with argentina?

Now Keeves, just like legal documents, titles, section headings, etc. need not have any bearing with respect to the matter contained.

Hang tough, Keeves. For the rest of us. Don’t give up the ghost.

Sucks to your assmar.