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What Does Oxygen Taste Like? Can We Even Taste It?

When you watch characters in movies say they “can taste the oxygen in the air,” you cannot help but wonder if oxygen is even something you can taste.

On the one hand, oxygen is a crucial component of the air we breathe.

On the other hand, it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that makes up about 21% of our atmosphere.

So, can we taste oxygen? Or is it just a trope used in movies to emphasize a character’s heightened senses?

Oxygen is tasteless, and we cannot taste it. However, the lack of oxygen can be felt as a metallic, burning sensation in our nose and mouth, commonly known as air hunger.

What is Oxygen?

Before we discuss whether oxygen is tasteless, we need to know what it is and why it is essential.

Oxygen (O2) is a gas that we breathe in for survival. It is one of the most essential elements that sustain life on Earth.

The gas comes from a reaction between plants and water during the process of photosynthesis.

It enters the atmosphere and spreads out evenly throughout the world.

Oxygen makes up about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

What Does Taste Mean?

Before we investigate oxygen’s taste, it is crucial that we understand what taste is.

Taste is one of the five senses, along with sight, touch, hearing, and smell.

Taste works by detecting molecules from food and drinks with specialized cells on the tongue.

These cells send signals to the brain, which interprets them as taste.

A combination of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory) tastes forms our sense of taste.

Taste is a crucial part of our lives as it influences our food choices and the overall eating experience.

Can We Taste Oxygen?

To answer the question of whether we can taste oxygen, the answer is no.

Like we stated earlier, oxygen is a colorless, odorless gas.

This means that it does not have any molecules that trigger our sense of taste.

We cannot taste pure oxygen.

However, this does not mean that oxygen does not give us a sensation.

Lack of oxygen, on the other hand, causes a burning, metallic taste in our noses and mouths.

This sensation is commonly known as air hunger.

When our bodies lack oxygen, it triggers the release of acids like lactic and pyruvic acid in our muscles.

These acids cause the metallic, burning sensation in our noses and mouths.

Air hunger is common in people who suffer from asthma, anxiety, altitude sickness, etc.

Although we cannot taste oxygen in the air, we can feel it in our bodies.

So the next time you see someone saying that they can taste oxygen, you know they’re just using a trope!

Why It Is Important to Know That Oxygen is Tasteless

The fact that oxygen does not have a taste may seem insignificant, but it is an important scientific fact.

When scientists develop new drugs or test gases that humans will inhale, they need to know whether these substances can affect our sense of taste.

They need to know how these gases or drugs interact with the molecules on our tongues.

If an experiment involves inhaling oxygen with a taste, it would be unsuccessful because it is not possible.

Knowing that oxygen does not have a taste enables scientists to make informed decisions.

It also highlights the importance of knowing basic properties of elements in the universe.

How Oxygen Affects Our Sense of Smell and Taste

Even though oxygen is tasteless, it plays a big role in how we perceive taste and smell.

Without enough oxygen, our sense of smell is compromised.

Our olfactory receptors, which are responsible for detecting scents, cannot work correctly in the absence of oxygen.

This is why people who suffer from respiratory problems have a compromised sense of smell.

Oxygen also plays a role in our sense of taste.

If we cannot smell properly, we cannot taste properly.

About 80% of what we perceive as taste comes from our sense of smell.

Therefore, a loss of smell can cause a loss of taste.

Why Some People Say They Can Taste Oxygen

People who say they can taste oxygen may be experiencing something else.

For instance, during exercise, you may feel like you can taste the air. However, this is not caused by the oxygen itself.

During exercise, your body requires more oxygen.

This increases the amount of air we breathe in, which can feel like we’re tasting the air.

Additionally, we can taste impurities in the air.

For example, if we are in an environment where there is smoke, we can taste the smoke.

The taste is not caused by oxygen, but rather the particles in the environment.

Additionally, people who have respiratory problems or sinus issues might experience strange tastes in their mouths due to mucus buildup.

This is not a result of oxygen, but rather a side effect of the illness.


In conclusion, oxygen is tasteless, and we cannot taste it.

Although movies and TV often use the trope that someone can “taste the oxygen in the air,” this is not scientifically accurate.

However, oxygen plays a crucial role in our sense of smell and taste.

Without enough oxygen, our sense of smell is compromised, making our sense of taste impaired.

Knowing that oxygen is tasteless helps scientists make decisions about experiments involving air.

Therefore, it is essential to be aware of basic properties of elements in our universe.

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Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.