Smell: A Powerful Sense

September 10, 2015 02:00 PM

In a dog’s world, smell is the most developed and most important of the senses. We’ve all seen them “reading” the odors in the air that tell them which dogs, humans, and other animals have stopped by the front gate or walked on the lawn. Dogs have 220 million scent detecting cells while humans have only 5 to 6 million, accounting for the difference in our ability to detect odors. Humans can detect at least one trillion distinct odor molecules but we rely more heavily on sight than smell to evaluate the world around us.

Smell is the oldest of the senses on the evolutionary ladder. Even very primitive creatures are able to react to chemicals in their environment. For humans, smells trigger powerful links to memory and emotions. The scent of crayons often evokes memories of elementary school even decades later. The smell of vanilla or apple pie can produce feelings of well being and “home”.

As people get older, there is an age-related loss of the sense of smell. Other factors including some medications or working in a “smelly” environment can also take a toll on this delicate sense. Scientists are now learning that losing your sense of smell can be an indicator of certain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Anyone with a sudden onset of problems detecting odors is advised to check with their primary care provider for evaluation.

Need a primary care provider near you? Call: 855.385.HEAL (4325) and we’ll help you find one.


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