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Why Bother Testing the Sense of Smell?
  1. Christopher Hawkes*,
  2. Mussadiq Shah
  1. *Consultant Neurologist,
  2. Honorary Lecturer in Neurology, Essex Neuroscience Centre, Romford, UK; E-mail: chrishawkes{at}


When was the last time you asked a patient about their sense of smell? When did you last perform any test of smell identification? Probably never is the answer to both questions. And if you ever did, I expect it was an afterthought and you had to send the clinic nurse scurrying off for an orange or some coffee grains, or worse still you dug out those prehistoric smell bottles that are more appropriate for reviving the dead than assessing the rhinencephalon (the smell brain). Ammonia is useful for cleaning metal. Tinct. asafoetida – the smell of flatus – is an important ingredient of one of the Pentagon’s most repugnant smells ‘US Government Standard Bathroom Malodor’, which causes volunteers to scream and curse within a few seconds. Exposure is perhaps best avoided. People can smell cloves from these bottles in the car park let alone in the clinic.

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