Tasting And Smelling Again: Glorious Glorious
For Jane Nilan, other COVID-19 symptoms went away within weeks, but smell and taste didnt return for three months. After about two months, I noticed those senses creeping back in, she said. I began to go to extremes to see how much I could taste, so my diet was full of hot curries, Mexican food and lots of spices. I was so afraid it would go away again, so I pushed myself right to the edge.
Nilan said that while a return to health has been a blessing, being able to enjoy her favorite foods is another one. I had no idea how important those senses were to me, she said. I still open jars of spices before I use them, stick my nose in and say, glorious, glorious.
Q: Should People With Smell And Taste Loss In The Absence Of Other Symptoms Be Concerned About Covid
While smell and taste loss can be caused by other conditions, it warrants a conversation with your physician to determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19. We know smell loss is one of the first and sometimes only symptoms in up to 25% of people diagnosed with COVID-19. It could be unrelated, but its important to seek care, especially if these symptoms are prolonged.
The Vanderbilt Smell and Taste Center can objectively test, evaluate and treat patients, whatever the cause, and can offer interventions that can potentially recover loss that could otherwise be permanent.
Loss Of Smell From Covid Can Last Many Months
TUESDAY, Feb. 23, 2021 — By now, most folks know that a loss of smell and taste are a hallmark of COVID-19 infection, but new research shows it can continue up to five months after the virus first strikes.
“It was apparent from the beginning of the pandemic that a significant percentage of people lost their capacity to smell,” said researcher Dr. Nicolas Dupre, director of neuromuscular and neurogenetic disease clinic at Laval University in Quebec. “This is quite common in many infectious diseases, but in COVID, the effect was much more important.”
In other viruses, smell and taste usually return after the sinuses are clear. But in COVID-19, the virus might penetrate the small area of the brain called the olfactory bulb, which is important for the recognition of smell, Dupre explained.
“The virus probably kills some of the cells in the olfactory bulb, and that’s why you have a long-lasting effect,” he said.
Losing your sense of smell can affect your daily life, Dupre said. And even when it returns, it can be different from before the virus, he said. In some people, the loss of smell might be permanent, but that’s not clear yet.
“We still think that in 80% of the people there’s not as a significant impact on their smell. So, most people will recover, but in a small percentage, it may be permanent, so this could be part of the long-term disability that we see in COVID,” Dupre said.
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When An Rdn Cant Taste Anything
Amanda Frankeny is a registered dietitian nutritionist who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Like Nilan, she contracted COVID-19 in March, when little was known about some of her symptoms.
During the second week I was sick, things started tasting and smelling funny, Frankeny said. Chocolate smelled like red meat. My taco soup could have been water, for all I knew. For me, the disease was slow and steady. Each day brought something new, as my other symptoms worsened. Losing my sense of taste was one of the worst parts.
She used her professional knowledge to make sure she stayed nourished. I was intentional about getting enough to eat at every meal, Frankeny said. I ate from every food group, and I tried to eat regular, colorful plates of food even when the blandness took over.
Other tips from Frankeny include remembering to drink water regularly. A dry mouth can affect your ability to taste, she said. Fluids help dissolve taste components, allowing them to reach the taste buds. Also, chew slowly to release flavors and increase saliva production.
While its tempting to want to treat yourself when youre sick, Frankeny warned against highly processed foods like chips, fast foods and sugary treats. Theres no point in wasting a pint of delicious ice cream if you cant taste it. Instead, eat things that make you feel a little better. Try a hot drink or soup, mostly because higher-temperature foods will feel nice.
How Does The Sense Of Taste Work
Molecules that dissolve in liquids activate your sense of taste . Tastebuds on your tongue have receptors that respond to substances. You also have receptors on the roof of your mouth and back of your throat. The receptors send messages to your brain that tell you when foods or drinks are sweet, salty, sour, bitter or savory .
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How Many People With Covid
The exact percentage varies between studies, but most suggest that smell loss is a common symptom.
One review, published last June, compiled data from 8,438 people with COVID-19, and found that 41% had reported experiencing smell loss. In another study, published in August, a team led by researcher Shima T. Moein at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences in Tehran, Iran, administered a smell-identification test to 100 people with COVID-19 in which the patients sniffed odours and identified them on a multiple-choice basis. Ninety-six per cent of the participants had some olfactory dysfunction, and 18% had total smell loss .
Usually, these patients say they have lost their smell suddenly, a clue that the symptom is linked to COVID-19, says Moein. And often, the dysfunction is the only COVID-19 symptom that people register, suggesting that the phenomenon is separate from virus-induced nasal congestion.
Some researchers say that smell loss should be used as a diagnostic test for COVID-19. A study published last October found that self-reported changes in smell or taste were a better marker of the spread of infection than were other indicators tracked by governments, such as arrivals at hospital accident and emergency departments.
When Will My Sense Of Smell And Taste Return After Covid
Its hard to say for sure. Some survey data suggest that for most people who experience the loss of taste or smell with COVID-19 infection, the symptoms improve within 1 month. However, other research suggests it may take several months. Its possible for people to experience a change in their sense of smell when it returns. For example, smells may seem stronger or more unpleasant.
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Covids Toll On Smell And Taste: What Scientists Do And Dont Know
One treatment for survivors of COVID-19 who have lost their sense of smell is ‘smell training’, in which they relearn prescribed scents, such as those of roses and lemons.Credit: Christine E. Kelly
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it emerged that many people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus were losing their sense of smell even without displaying other symptoms. Researchers also discovered that infected people could lose their sense of taste and their ability to detect chemically triggered sensations such as spiciness, called chemesthesis.
Almost a year later, some still havent recovered these senses, and for a proportion of people who have, odours are now warped: unpleasant scents have taken the place of normally delightful ones. Nature surveys the science behind this potentially long-lasting and debilitating phenomenon.
Potential Breakthrough Omicron Ba2121 Symptoms To Expect:
Vaccines are the most protective and effective form of COVID-19 prevention available but many don’t realize current vaccines aren’t designed to avert COVID-19 transmission entirely, as “their strength is in preventing systemic illness and serious illness in the lungs,” explains Peter F. Wright, M.D., infectious disease and international health practitioner for New Hampshire’s largest academic medical system, Dartmouth Health.
Feeling sick while experiencing a breakthrough infection is entirely likely, though, as upwards of 60% of all breakthrough illnesses resulted in mild illness that didn’t require hospitalization, according to materials published by the American Medical Association .
The most accurate way to tell if you’re currently experiencing a breakthrough COVID-19 illness is to get tested. And since no two COVID-19 cases result in the same kinds of symptoms with the same severity, or progression, current breakthrough cases triggered by BA.2.12.1 can lead to any combination of known COVID-19 symptoms that researchers have noted over the course of the pandemic.
Experiencing two or more of the following symptoms, especially if they’re severe, should prompt you to get tested. Here are all known COVID-19 symptoms associated with the current Omicron subvariant wave, according to the CDC:
- Nausea or vomiting
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Are Treatments Available For Restoring These Senses
A lack of research means few established treatments exist. But one option is smell training, in which people sniff prescribed odours regularly to relearn them. Hopkins is working with a charity called AbScent in Andover, UK, to get the word out to the public about this training. There is evidence from before the pandemic that it can improve smell function in some people with such impairments, but it doesnt seem to work for everyone.
How Do Illnesses Like Covid
Some viruses damage olfactory sensory neurons, nerves that help you smell. It may take months to recover from this damage. And being sick can make it hard to smell if your nose is stuffed up. With COVID-19, more than 8 in 10 people may briefly lose their sense of smell. Along with it, they lose their ability to taste. Researchers are still trying to determine how and why the COVID-19 virus affects smell and taste. One study suggests the virus doesnt directly damage olfactory sensory neurons. Instead, it may affect cells that support these neurons. Once the infection goes away, the olfactory nerve starts working properly again. Most people regain these senses within 60 days of recovering from COVID-19.
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What Are The Different Variants Of Covid
The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 has gone through various evolutions over time, leading to different variants. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, SARS-CoV-2, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron are considered variants of concern because they have affected the health of a large population globally, leading to significant increases in hospitalizations and death due to the complications.
New viral variants are usually considered more dangerous than previous variants due to the following:
- Increased transmissibility or unfavorable changes in COVID-19 epidemiology
- Increased virulence or a change in clinical illness presentation
- Decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures, as well as current diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies
Can Loss Of Smell Or Taste Cause Complications
When your sense of smell or taste declines, meals lose their appeal. Eating too little can put you at risk for malnutrition, dehydration and unhealthy weight loss. To give food flavor, you may add too much sugar or salt. These additions can increase your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Lack of smell and taste puts you at risk for food poisoning because you cant tell when foods have spoiled. You also may not be able to smell fire and smoke, natural gas or harmful chemicals in your home or surroundings.
A lack of appetite combined with an inability to smell pleasurable scents may contribute to depression.
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Taste And Smell Changes
You may experience loss of smell following your COVID infection. We do not have long-term data for COVID patients about recovery of smell. We know from studies of loss of smell caused by other viruses that sense of smell can return quickly within a couple of weeks whilst others can take many months to recover. Recovery can sometimes be slow. From what we know so far, about 1 in 10 cases of smell and taste problems persist after COVID infection we know from other viruses that about 1 in 3 people will see recovery of their sense of smell over 3 years.
Loss of smell will affect how well you can detect flavours. When we eat, the flavour of food is the combined experience of smell and taste together. We have five basic tastes sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury which are not normally affected when we lose our sense of smell because they are detected with the tongue. However, there is evidence that in COVID true taste can be affected as well as smell.
When Do You Lose Your Sense Of Smell And Taste With Covid
Findings differ from person to person, and further research is needed to clarify when and why these symptoms occur.
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Losing The Sense Of Smell: How Covid
An illustration of the olfactory bulb and epithelium. Top right: A pericyte wraps … around a blood vessel . Bottom right: Olfactory sensory neurons surrounded by sustentacular cells and basal cells .
Image: Brann et. al., 2020. https://hms.harvard.edu/news/how-covid-19-causes-loss-smell
This is part of a series on bystander SARS-CoV-2 induced damage to organs, tissues and cells.
One of the most defining symptoms of Covid-19 is loss of smell without the experience of a stuffy nose, known as anosmia. This distinct feature of Covid-19 affects at least half of those infected with the virus. In most cases, the sense of smell restores itself after a few weeks, but twelve percent of people continue to report complete loss of smell months after the initial infection. A recent study from researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Columbia University offers a possible explanation for how structural damage to olfactory cells may delay sensory restoration.
The Indirect Effects of Covid-19 Infection
Researchers are just beginning to understand the indirect effects of viral infection on the olfactory system. The next question asks: if the virus does not directly infect olfactory neurons, what explains the damage to nerve cells that contributes to long-lasting loss of smell? Understanding these effects in the olfactory system may provide further insight into how the SARS-CoV-2 virus impacts the nervous system as a whole.
Damage to Olfactory Receptors
Is It Possible To Retrain Your Nose And Get Back Your Sense Of Taste And Smell After Covid
Dr. Jennifer Reavis Decker at the UCHealth Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, has helped her patients, some of whom are children, to retrain their sense of smell by using strongly-scented essential oils . It is called olfactory retraining.
The sense of smell is closely linked to memory, she says, especially pleasant memories. Thats why using peanut butter or peppermint candy with children makes more sense than something like the odor of clove or jasmine, of which they typically have little memory or, surely, pleasant ones.
The cookie recipe here is peanut buttery but not overly sweet, so not to distract the palate from tasting sweetness over the nut butters aroma. The ginger-based shot is powerfully aromatic and flavorful. When swallowing, be sure to push some air up through the rear nasal cavity so that you get a strong smell of it, too.
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Ligia Cristina Monteiro Galindo
dPhenotypic Plasticity and Nutrition Studies Unit, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, PE, Brazil
eGraduate Program in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Phenotypic Plasticity, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Vitória de Santo Antão, PE, Brazil
fDepartament of Anatomy, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, PE, Brazil
How Do I Know If My Smell Loss Is Related To Covid
While on its face, COVID-19-related smell loss and smell loss due to other viral infections may look the same, they are different.
Tajudeen explains that instead of attacking the olfactory sensory neurons, COVID-19 affects the neurons supporting cells. You obviously cant see this happening, so the telltale sign is when the smell loss occurs.
With most viral infections, smell loss will occur after the other viral symptoms the nasal congestion and runny nose have come and gone. With COVID-19, smell loss one of the first signs of infection.
Smell loss is actually an early sign of COVID-19 and usually occurs for those who have a mild form of the virus, says Tajudeen. Patients with smell loss are normally at home recovering and not admitted into the hospital or on a ventilator.
If your first symptom is smell loss, that is a good indicator to get tested and quarantine.
Another major difference is the length of smell recovery. With other viruses, recovery could take months and sometimes even years. Smell recovery for COVID-19 patient usually takes about four weeks. Tajudeen suggests that this could be because COVID-19 affects supporting cells, which regenerate faster than olfactory sensory neurons.
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Viruses And Sense Of Smell
Eric Holbrook, MD, an associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Harvard Medical School and division director for rhinology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Verywell that other viruses besides COVID can cause anosmia.
Post-viral smell loss was a known entity, says Holbrook. We were unable to directly identify what viruses caused it mostly because these patients would come in long after the acute symptoms and so its very hard to detect what virus actually caused it.
People may lose their sense of smell when they have stuffed up sinuses from a cold or the flu. While it can be temporary, some people will notice that their sense of smell has not come back after the nasal congestion clears.
Holbrook specializes in treating disorders of the senses of smell and taste and says that around 40% of the patients that would come to see me had this history of having a cold, and then losing their sense of smell. Its also possible for people to suddenly lose their sense of smell after a head injury.
Coronaviruses other than SARS-CoV-2 can also cause the loss of the sense of smell. Holbrook says that anosmia was reported with some cases of the coronavirus that caused the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 and 2004, but that the symptom was not nearly as prevalent as it is with COVID-19.