Well, there may be some hope out there!
It seems all we have talked about for the last 2 years is COVID, it’s variants, signs and symptoms, death rates, daily new cases and so on and so forth. We are slowly learning the Greek alphabet based on the new variants which continue to appear – although they seemed to have skipped over Episolon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lamda, Mu, and Nu. Perhaps they thought the general public wouldn’t notice. And did we have an Alpha, Beta, Gamma variant – or did we all just forget about those? We know about antigens, antibodies, and monoclonal antibodies now. And who knew people had such strong opinions on masks and vaccinations?
But what we don’t seem to be talking a great deal about, or actually I really haven’t heard any mention of it, other than from my son and some patients at work – is the persistent lack of taste and smell which occurs during the infection (and maybe one of the first and only symptoms) and well into the post-infection phase. And interestingly enough, your ability to smell is responsible for around 80% of your taste. Considering food is such a big part of our lives (I speak for myself really), one would think someone, somewhere, would be saying something – or perhaps I’m just not looking in the right places.
My youngest son contracted COVID in August, and the first symptoms he experienced was the lack of taste and smell. It was those initial symptoms which pushed him to get tested. He was really sick for days, and it takes a lot to knock this guy down at 6’5″ and 270 pounds. Luckily, he was never admitted to the hospital, but it seemed to be touch and go there for a while. Thankfully, he is back to his old self – but he has never regained his sense of taste or smell, and in fact, all the foods he eats – smell and taste like Paprika. Why Paprika – I wonder? I guess he should feel blessed it is something as benign as Paprika. I read an article the other day, where a lady stated since her COVID illness, everything she ate tasted and smelled like rotting flesh. How horrible that must be? I am so fascinated as to know what other people, who have experienced the persistent loss of taste and smell – what particular smell and taste do they experience?
I work in a Pediatric Otolaryngology clinic, and we are being asked quite frequently if there is anything which can be done to help the post-COVID lack of taste and smell. An article I read from Vanderbilt University states that at least 80% of all people with COVID, will have prolonged loss of both of these senses, post-infection. A study out of France states most people will completely regain their senses in about 1 year (although it was a fairly small sample of 97 people – you think they could have rounded up more – considering how many people have contracted COVID). That’s an incredibly long time not to be able to taste or smell your food. In another article – from Medical News, it suggested that about 53% of all people with COVID lose their sense of taste and smell, and about 75-80% will regain their senses in about 2 months. That doesn’t seem so awful.
What can be done to mitigate the length of this annoying and disruptive post-COVID symptom? It is thought a fairly unknown therapy called Smell Retraining Therapy may actually help. According to ENT Health, “Smell retraining therapy (SRT) is a treatment for loss of smell, also referred to as hyposmia or anosmia. It can be used to help return your sense of smell if it was lost during a viral infection or minor head trauma. SRT was originally developed in 2009 by Dr. Thomas Hummel at the University of Dresden“.
Smell Retraining Therapy (SRT) is done by repeatedly exposing your nose to certain types of smells to stimulate your olfactory system and reestablish memory of that certain smell. Four types of scents are used, like the color wheel , there is a wheel (or actually a square) of scents: spicy (cloves), floral (rose), resinous (eucalyptus) and citrus/fruity (lemon). Retraining therapy involves smelling these fragrances, and really paying attention for about 10-20 seconds per scent. This is to be done twice daily for at least 3 months.
“SRT is believed to work as a combination of the unique ability for smell nerves to regrow while encouraging improved brain connectivity. Either way, try not to get discouraged; it is common for this process to take some time before you start to smell anything, and that is okay.” ENT Health
At this time, there is no research as to whether this will help the post-COVID loss of smell. I purchased a kit of essential oils from Cliganic, along with a bottle of Rosehips, Cloves and Lemon essential oils. My son began following the Smell Retraining Therapy regimen using these essential oils, and amazingly enough, even after the first session he felt the food he ate for dinner that night had a bolder, less Paprika flavor. Every time he has a session, he is seeing improvement. He is so excited, because he loves to cook, and it is very hard to cook when one can’t taste or smell (especially if you are cooking for others). As a side note – my son says the Rose essential oil still has no smell – and he figures the Rose scent will be the “final boss battle” (he is a big gamer – translation for the rest us – he will have completely regained his ability to smell and vanquished the COVID anosmia if he can smell the Rose).
There is hope for all of those suffering for dysosmia, anosmia or hyposmia. Based on the improvement my son has experienced in just over a week, I believe there may be something to this Smell Retraining Therapy.
If any of you have experienced loss of taste and smell because of COVID – would you mind leaving a comment and letting me know what particular smell and taste you are experiencing at present? If you have regained both senses, could you let me know how long it to for it to return? We are considering designing a Smell Retraining Kit for those who are suffering from this post-COVID affliction and really need some data to get some sense (no pun intended) as to whether this would be helpful.
Please note: None of this is to be considered medical advice, and the results are based on my son’s personal experience.