Impact of olfactory disorders on personal safety and wellbeing: A cross-sectional observational study

Liam Lee, Louis Luke, Duncan Boak, Carl Philpott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Investigate safety perceptions, quantify hazardous events, and analyse their manifestations in individuals with olfactory dysfunction through an online cross-sectional survey.

Methods: An online survey, available from 25th February to 28th September 2022, captured data on demographics, olfactory disorder causes, safety concerns, and experienced hazardous events. Distributed via Fifth Sense channels, it targeted individuals with self-claimed olfactory dysfunction.

Results: Of 432 responses, the majority were female (79.6%), aged 41–70, with 20.6% non-UK residents from 21 countries. Leading causes of dysfunction were Covid-19 (22%), idiopathic (20.8%), and congenital (14.4%). Safety concerns were high (85.9%), with gas, smoke, and food as major worries. Over 5 years, 32.2% faced ≥ 1 food incident, 14.8% ≥ 1 gas incident, 34.5% ≥ 1 gas scare, and 18.5% ≥ 1 work incident. Preventative measures were taken by 60.2% at home. Key limitations of this study were self-reported data and sampling bias of charity members.

Conclusion: This study highlights the significant impact of smell loss on personal safety and emotional well-being. There is an unmet need in mitigating safety concerns/events for individuals with olfactory dysfunction. We suggest collaborate strategies such as educating the public sector and high-risk sectors (e.g. gas companies), and introducing safety ‘scratch and sniff’ cards as a screening method. Regular assessment of an individual’s olfactory ability, similar to routine assessments for other sensory systems (sight, hearing) may allow proactive identification of at-risk people and corrective measures to take place.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
Early online date23 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2024

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