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"I Lost Smell and Taste Because of Zicam"

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Momlogic met one mom who says she lost more than just her sense of smell because of Zicam.

** Editor's note: This is one mom's story of what she says happened after using Zicam. Matrixx, the makers of the drug, strongly denies these claims, saying they have no data that shows a link between losing one's sense of smell to use of their product. Click here to read their entire statement.

Jackie Tyle and Zicam product

Jackie Tyler: Overnight, I had lost taste and smell. The thought that I could no longer smell a rose, the ocean, my daughters' hair, my future grandbaby's "baby smell," or the other thousands of smells and tastes that give meaning to life was overwhelming.

In March of 2006, I woke up with a cold. I used the Zicam nasal pump spray, thinking, "I bet that's even more effective, because it can really penetrate into your nasal sinuses." (I later learned this spray can shoot many feet into the air. Imagine what that does to your nose?)

Immediately upon using the Zicam spray in one nostril, I experienced an intense burning in my nasal passages that lasted a few minutes. I thought, "Boy, I really am coming down with a bad cold ... my sinuses are all raw." So I used it in the other nostril.

I went about my day, and at 5 PM, began dinner. I noticed immediately that I couldn't smell what I was cooking. "This cold is a bad one," I thought. "I already can't smell." Odd, considering I wasn't stuffed up.

At dinner, I couldn't taste a thing. For two weeks, it stayed the same. Puzzled, I Googled "loss of smell" and "cold" -- and found message boards with stories from hundreds of people who reported losing their sense of smell because of Zicam.

Could this be permanent? What was happening?

I got an immediate appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor, who confirmed my total loss of taste and smell. Quickly, I saw another doctor at the La Jolla Taste and Smell Clinic at UC San Diego, who put me on 50mg of Prednisone (a potent prescription anti-inflammatory) -- but he said he wasn't optimistic for me because too much time had passed. Two weeks, and this was irreparable? Why wasn't this more well-known? Where were the warnings?

For the first time, the enormity of my situation hit me. Overnight, I had lost two of my five senses: taste and smell. Besides no longer being able to taste or smell food, which was devastating enough, the thought that I could no longer smell a rose, or the ocean, my daughter's hair, my future grandbaby's "baby smell," or the other thousands of smells and tastes that give meaning to life was overwhelming.

After going through all the emotions that loss of taste and smell created -- sadness, depression, fear -- I got mad. From my research, it was evident that zinc solution can destroy the olfactory nerve, and Matrixx knew it and refused to remove at least the nasal spray from drugstore shelves. I called everyone to publicize my story and others like it -- even Oprah -- but heard back from no one. I went on a local crusade and spoke to every pharmacist in my area to warn them of the Zicam danger. No one had ever heard of it.

Six months went by, and I wasn't going down without a fight. I'd survived breast cancer twice and had only just recovered from my second surgery before Zicam robbed me of my smell. I'd be damned if I was going to let this diminish my quality of life that I'd fought hard to live.

Even the best doctors remained pessimistic about my recovery, so I sought out a naturopath by the name of Patty Thetford Thompson. She specializes in treating disease with micro-current frequency and natural supplements. The theory behind frequency therapy is that every illness or injury, or state of wellness, for that matter, has a specific vibratory frequency. Restore the vibrations of your olfactory nerves, and you're back on track. It sounds out-there, but I was willing to try anything.

Patty applied electrodes to my forehead and nasal area, used frequency-transmitting gloves in my nasal passages, and applied a frequency to counteract a chemical burn. I saw her every week for several weeks. After about four treatments, I perceived the first faint hint of smell -- the lavender oil in her office. I was ecstatic. That night, I could taste my toothpaste -- strong tastes and smells came back first.

I could smell the ocean after about a year, and yes, I can smell the roses, and my daughter's hair! I still don't have 100% function. Some days it seems like 50%, and some days even closer to normal. I am one of the lucky ones who got something back. I credit the doctor who prescribed prednisone therapy, and Patty's frequency treatments for my recovery.

I didn't pursue a lawsuit against Matrixx, but I continued to be very vocal and proactive in my community about the dangers of Zicam nasal spray. I'm so relieved to know that the FDA has finally come down on the manufacturer, Matrixx. Sadly, it comes too late for many people already harmed who will never be able to "smell the roses."

next: Mommy from Another Planet
12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Joyce June 18, 2009, 7:18 PM


Annie June 18, 2009, 8:55 PM

That is so unfortunate. I am glad she found some support and got some sense of smell back. However, I will add that I have used Zicam for years and have always had wonderful results. I hope it stays on the market.

Cherie Ballew June 18, 2009, 10:28 PM

I could have written the exact same story as Jackie Taylor. I too saw a specialist 5 days after my burning encounter with Zicam.I had numerous caustic burns in my nasal passages that were infected. Almost 3 years later I still can taste or smell very little.I called Matrix after I saw my doctor and all I got was a canned spiel about how their testing shows its safe. Baloney! I used it once! It is very depressing to not be able to taste or smell. It diminishes so much in life. I hope they have to pay big for what they have done to people.

Leah June 19, 2009, 3:04 PM

About 4 years ago, I used Zicam nasal spray, which I had previously used many times without any problems. Immediately, my sinuses were on fire — intense burning pain. Thankfully, I knew something was wrong, so I snorted lots of tap water into my nose to try to flush my burning sinuses out. Then, I went to the local drugstore and got lots of plain saline nose spray and continued to flush those poor sinuses out. I, like this woman, assumed that something was wrong with my SINUSES versus a problem with the Zicam. Sometime later, I saw a feature on our local news about a woman who permanently lost her sense of smell due to Zicam. I consider it a miracle that I was able to avoid permanent damage, and I do believe that those affected should receive appropriate financial compensation. It’s just shocking that the FDA took this long to act! Sadly, it’s not shocking that a company chose to continue to make make money selling a harmful product.

Grant Davis June 21, 2009, 1:26 AM

about 3 months ago, I used zicam for a cold. shortly after I smelled a stong acid smell for a brief minute. I asked those with me, no one else smelled it. latter that night I had put on some vicks vapor rub and noticed it had no smell to it… I went a few months then I went to my dr. and tried all kinds of different treatments. nothing worked. I have no sense of smell or taste…

muri June 24, 2009, 4:36 PM

zicam has left me without sense of taste and smell. what a bummer.

SKP June 28, 2009, 10:10 PM

I just read that Matrixx knew permanent loss of smell was a possible side effect for a LONG time! They definitely should have at least included a warning. Just read on says there are an additional 800 reports the company has not even shared with the FDA.

Anonymous November 13, 2009, 3:11 AM

L Carnosine and Alpha Lipoic Acid have been shown helpful in restoring Sense of Smell in more than 50% of participants in a University of Dresden Study. L Carnosine is naturally high in levels in the healthy olfactory system/ Alpha Lipoic Acid was the basis for the study and increased sense of smell levels. Theophylline (from tea)can also help (Smell and Taste Center, Wash DC)

joby February 8, 2010, 2:37 AM

She used micro current therapy. Has anyone out there tried COLD LASER therapy for zicam induced anosmia? I can find only one instance of this happening on the entire web. I can’t believe no one else tried it. I want to try it but thought perhaps there would have been some testimony out there as to the effectiveness of this approach. Guess I’ll do it and report back to you.

Golf September 21, 2010, 12:41 AM

In connected announcement, right after his click convention admitting his cheating, Tiger Woods started apologizing towards the girls with whom he experienced affairs. Twelve hrs later they are saying he barely scratched the floor.

Carol Tinsley October 1, 2010, 1:54 AM


I was wondering if you have a facebook page? I would love to chat with you on the naturopath specialist you saw. I have on and off again trouble for years now with my smell and I’m curious to find out more about this.

Thank you
Carol Tinsley

Fashion Design October 1, 2010, 4:47 AM

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