COVID-19 affecting sense of taste, smell in alarming ways


CLEVELAND (WJW) — Coffee smells like gasoline, cheese tastes like rubber. COVID-19 can affect the senses in alarming ways.

In fact, some patients are reporting a loss of smell and taste long after COVID or even coming back different.

“The majority of people experience anosmia, which is complete loss of smell,” said Dr. Mamie Higgins with the Cleveland Clinic.

It’s one of the most common side effects of COVID-19.

“Lately, I’ve seen more and more people take longer.  They get their smell back around three months after, which is really frustrating,” said Higgins.

According to Higgins, COVID-19 isn’t the first illness to lead to a loss of taste or smell.

However, coronavirus is different because it attacks the support cells that guide smells from your nose to your brain. And, for some patients, that reaction is simply a precursor to another phenomenon called parosmia, or odor distortion.

“You may go to smell your coffee, it smells like gasoline. Common triggers to this are coffee, gasoline, tobacco, perfume, and chocolate,” said Higgins.

According to Higgins, more and more patients are reporting another alarming side effect called phantosmia or phantom smells. Most patients report a foul smell that is not really there,

 “That is when you really aren’t smelling anything so there isn’t a trigger.  Some phantom smells can be electric, burning, or smoke,” said Higgins.

So, what should you do if you lose your sense of smell? Higgins says consider olfactory training. It can be done by yourself at home and there are zero side effects.

“What smell training entails is smelling four major groups of smells.  Flowery, fruity, aromatic, and resinous.  So, that would be a rose, lemon, cloves, and eucalyptus.  You smell each of those for
10-15 seconds a day,” said Higgins.

Higgins recommends doing that twice a day for at least three months. She says the most important thing to remember is patience when retraining your nose on how to smell again.

“It’s about regenerating those connections.  They will hopefully realign so you can get your smell again.  But some lab studies show it can take up to two years.  So, it might be a long process,” said

Doctors also remind people experiencing loss of smell to make sure their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work and make sure food in the fridge is still fresh.

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