Noses Off

By Scott LaFee

August 22, 2018 6 min read

Phantom odor perception is exactly what it sounds like: the detection of smells that, in fact, have no source. A new study, the first in the United States to use nationally representative data, reports that 1 in 15 Americans (6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experience phantom odors.

In other words, they smell things that just aren't there.

"Problems with the sense of smell are often overlooked, despite their importance," said Judith A. Cooper, acting director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. "They can have a big impact on appetite, food preferences and the ability to smell danger signals, such as fire, gas leaks and spoiled food."

The ability to identify odors tends to decrease with age. Phantom odor perception, on the other hand, seems to improve with age. A previous Swedish study found that 4.9 percent of people over the age of 60 experience phantom odors, with a higher prevalence in women than men. The latest U.S. study found a similar prevalence in the over-60 age group, but an even higher prevalence in ages 40 to 60, with women again more likely to experience it. Aside from gender, other risk factors for the onset of phantom odors include head injury, dry mouth, poor overall health and low socio-economic status.

Researchers hypothesized that people with lower socio-economic status may more commonly be exposed to environmental pollutants and toxins, or have health conditions that contribute to phantom odors, either directly or because of medications needed to treat their health conditions.

Body of Knowledge

On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute or 960 breaths per hour. That works out to 23,040 breaths a day or 8,409,600 in a year. A person who lives to 80 years of age will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime.

Get Me That, Stat!

People who are incarcerated get sick too. A recent Pew Research Center report shows that the cost of healthcare is high in prisons as well. For example, hospital costs make up 27 percent and 23 percent of prison health spending in Virginia and New York, respectively. One cost-saving measure being tried: patient-doctor video conferences. Texas conducts 11,000 such conferences monthly, reducing the number of actual physician visits with prisoners.


257: Estimated number, in millions, of people living with chronic hepatitis B infection worldwide

27: Number, in millions, of people aware of their infection

4.5: Number, in millions, who had been treated

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Doc Talk

FABIANS: felt awful but I'm all right now syndrome

Mania of the Week

Typomania: a craze for printing one's own lucubration, which are typically pieces of writing characterized by pedantry and overelaboration

Number Cruncher

A Panda Bowl with orange chicken and mixed veggies from Panda Express (343 grams) contains 490 calories, 166 from fat. It has 18.5 grams of total fat or 28 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet, according to the database.

It also contains 80 milligrams of cholesterol (27 percent); 1,160 mg of sodium (48 percent); 61 grams of total carbohydrates (20 percent); 5 g of dietary fiber (20 percent); 24 g of sugar and 18 g of protein.

Never Say Diet

The speed-eating record for potato latkes (a sort of pancake) is 48 in 8 minutes, held by "Furious" Pete Czerwinski. Note: It's unclear why Mr. Czerwinski is nicknamed "Furious" unless it's because he thought latkes come with maple syrup. They do not. Most often they are served with sour cream, cottage cheese or apple sauce - all of which are nice, but aren't maple syrup.

Best Medicine

Wife: Well, what did the doctor say about your obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Husband: He said I have CDO.

Wife: What's that?

Husband: It's like OCD, but the letters are in alphabetical order — as they should be.


"A natural death is where you die by yourself without the aid of a doctor."

—Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Medical History

This week in 1978, U.S. scientists announced the production of human-type insulin by a strain of genetically engineered E. coli bacteria. A normal body's production of insulin takes place within pancreas cells programmed by certain genes. The scientists synthesized copies of the genes and inserted them into a weakened strain of intestinal Escherichia coli. In 1982, insulin became the first recombinant DNA drug to be marketed.

Self Exam

Q: Why are lips reddish?

A: Due to the great concentration of blood-carrying capillaries just below the skin. Only humans display this particular distinction between lips and the surrounding mouth area. The reason is unknown.

Last Words

"Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."

George Appel, who was executed by electric chair in 1928 for the murder of a police officer

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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