A common cold is usually nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Most people suffer from it at least once every year, especially during winter. Symptoms usually involve fever, blocked or a runny nose, sore throat, cough, etc. We also lose the ability to perceive the taste of food. So why does this happen even though our tongue is not directly affected by the cold?

How Our Sense of Taste Actually Works

Among the 5 sense organs, nose and tongue essentially influence the taste of our food. The tongue has several bumps on its surface called Papillae, which contain the taste buds. These taste buds have microscopic hairs called microvilli that relay information to the brain on how the food tastes. However, our sense of taste is also dependent on our nose.

The nose has Olfactory receptors that have specialized cells which transmit information to the brain. When we chew food, chemicals are released and these travel up the olfactory receptors and into the brain. This helps us to perceive “taste”. Therefore, the tongue combined with the nose helps us to realize the true flavour of food.

How A Cold Influences Taste

As stated before, the chemicals (aroma) present in the food travels from the mouth and into the nasal cavity, where, hair cells carry this information to the brain. However, when we have a cold, the body produces excess mucus, and this mucus prevents the hair cells from sending the information to the brain, as a result, the food that we eat feels tasteless.

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