What’s It Like To Experience Changes To Your Taste And Smell
Iloreta, who’s seen a range of patients with anosmia and parosmia, as well as taste conditions, said there’s “a wide spectrum of presentations.” Some patients notice decreases in their perception of flavors and odors, whereas others notices changes in these senses.
A common symptom, he noted, is a “constant fire or burning, smoke smell,” and others include a “foul, bitter smell” and “a feces-like smell.” These patients often report significant changes to taste, too, as these two senses are closely linked. The combination can greatly diminish appetite, he added.
Marcus Tomoff, a 28-year-old from Tampa, Florida, who tested positive for COVID-19 in early June, told TODAY he noticed one morning, before any other symptoms, that he couldn’t smell or taste bacon. Shortly after, he realized that all other tastes had been replaced by “a metal taste,” and his lack of smell made him think he was congested.
Now, he said he only has “mild taste and smell.” He can get whiffs of peppermint and lemons, but mostly he smells “burning” and tastes metal. Overall, the experience has “mentally drained” him, he said, adding, “Its kind of been like lifes little pleasures taken away from me … Youre pretty much just eating and drinking to survive.”
Retraining Your Sense Of Smell
Its also possible that your brain may have forgotten how to smell. As a result, you might not smell anything, or you may have a distorted sense of smell. A forgetful brain may sound serious, but remember, your brain is constantly learning and relearning.
So, how can you train your senses to smell again after COVID-19? Smell therapy can help the process involves smelling different strong scents for at least 20 seconds while thinking about memories and experiences involving the scent. We generally recommend rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus essential oils because the smells are strong and distinctive.
Just keep in mind that it can take three months or longer to notice improvements with smell therapy. Its important to stick with it.
Immune Response And The Brain
While the mechanism behind the loss of smell and taste is still unknown, Desai says that the rigorous immune response and cytokine storm could be causing collateral damage to organs.
There are studies from spinal fluid showing abnormal proteins suggesting COVID infects multiple organs, including kidney, the heart, and the brain, says Desai. Everything in COVID is an acute infection, but I think some people have lingering organ damage from the immunological process causing symptoms. So, loss of smell is almost like a neurological symptom.
Desai suspects that there is damage to brain areas involved in how we sense odors and that it could be that people do not lose the physical ability to detect scents, but rather, that their perception of scent is affected.
The damage to organs after infection with the virus can lead to the lingering effects observed in COVID long-haulers. While its too early to confirm if the loss of smell and taste continues after post-infection, it could be a clue as to why some patients have lasting neurological and psychiatric symptoms such as brain fog.
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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.
Is There Anything Else You Can Do To Get Your Sense Of Taste Back
One approach that appears to have some impact is smell training. The concept is simple: “One gets a series of strong smelling items like coffee, cinnamon, and citrus, and smells each remembering how they smelled before the illness,” Dr. Kumar told POPSUGAR. Think of it as relearning your environment.
Dr. Kumar noted that this training could help the sensing cells regenerate more quickly. However, both experts stressed that this strategy requires patience. “It takes three to four months of time,” Dr. Posina told POPSUGAR.
Although there aren’t currently any published studies or research about how to regain taste after COVID-19, Dr. Kumar noted that this may change soon and result in more concrete, reliable steps to take. “Work is always being done and something may come up in the near future,” he said.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.
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Q: What Questions About These Covid
We plan to watch the recovery rate for these patients. We encourage people who have prolonged smell and taste dysfunction to be evaluated to help us understand if and when these symptoms resolve. There is also concern that COVID-19 and its ability to enter the olfactory tissue could be a conduit for infection in the brain. I think well learn more about that as we follow these patients over time.
Saline Rinses With A Neti Pot
For this treatment, youll combine a small amount of special salt with warm distilled water in a pot that looks a bit like a genies lamp. When everything is mixed, you pour the solution through your nasal cavities.
Rinsing out your nasal cavities in this way clears out the mucus or debris in your nose that may be causing inflammation. You can find neti pots online or in your local store near treatments for seasonal allergies.
Often neti pots come with packets of the salt mixture youll need. But if not, look for salt designed for nasal cleansing or neti pots. Youll also want to pick up distilled water from the store. Tap water and filtered water arent safe to use with your neti pot, because they contain microbes that may affect your nasal passages and, potentially, your brain.
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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.
What Causes Loss Of Smell
The structures that make up the sense of smell are located in the roof of the nasal cavity, behind the nose, just in front of the brain. The olfactory sensory neurons detect molecules in the air that are connected to the substances around us, which are then connected directly to the brain. Odors reach the neurons both through the nostrils and the mouth.
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Learn To Taste And Smell Again After Covid
Getting back to living your best life after COVID-19 can be hard if you cant taste and smell. Fortunately, recovery is almost always possible.
If youd like personalized treatment to recover your taste and smell after COVID-19, were here to help. Our doctors and clinicians are ready to work with you to bring back your senses so you can start tasting food, smelling flowers and enjoying life to the fullest.
How To Regain Your Sense Of Taste And Smell After Covid
Were told that SARS-CoV-2, like its cousin the common cold virus, will be with us for a long time How odd that it remains the new coronavirus, two years on.
And that means that, for certain persons, its symptoms will occur for a long time, too. For the cook, the most telling symptom is the way COVID-19 sometimes wipes out a persons sense of taste or smell, sometimes both.
This came home to me because, over the past two years, both my son, Colin, and one of his closest friends, Dan Murray, a Denver small business owner, both suffered total losses to their senses of smell and taste. In both cases, they also attempted to retrain those senses by using strongly-flavored and -scented food.
After about two weeks, said Murray, I got back around 25 percent. In probably six weeks, 80 percent. At first, all I could feel on my tongue was textureno taste. It was like wearing a surgical glove on my tongue.
I did two things, said Murray. I ate Hot Tamales and, every morning for weeks, I went to an organic juice shop near work and got a shot of their ginger-apple cider vinegar juice. It was daily training. He used it as a test, he said, until I made a bitter beer face, a kind of squinty tart face.
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How Does Permanently Losing The Chemical Senses Affect A Person
Although the condition is not as well studied as the loss of other senses such as vision and hearing, researchers know that the consequences can be severe.
One effect is that it leaves people vulnerable to dangers such as food poisoning and fire. For instance, people with anosmia are less able to detect spoilt foods and smoke. A 2014 study found that people with anosmia were more than twice as likely to experience a hazardous event, such as eating spoilt food, as people without smell loss.
Other effects are more difficult to measure. Most people dont acknowledge the importance of smell in their lives until they lose it, says Moein. Being unable to appreciate the flavour of food is obviously a major loss, but other sensations are important, too. Hayes points, for instance, to the loss a parent would feel if they couldnt connect to their child through the newborn baby smell. And Moein says that smell dysfunction has been linked with depression, although the biological mechanism involved is unclear.
Why Do People With Covid
Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, there is an emerging consensus that smell loss occurs when the coronavirus infects cells that support neurons in the nose.
When researchers first identified smell loss as a symptom of COVID-19, they were worried that the virus was infecting the odour-sensing neurons in the nose that send signals to the olfactory bulb in the brain and that the virus could therefore access the brain. However, post-mortem studies of people who had had COVID-19 have shown that the virus rarely reaches the brain.
A team led by Sandeep Robert Datta, a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, has instead found that cells that support sensory neurons in the nose known as sustentacular cells are probably what the virus is infecting.
Datta and his colleagues zeroed in on sustentacular cells because SARS-CoV-2 attacks by targeting a receptor called ACE2 on the surfaces of cells, and sustentacular cells have many such receptors. Olfactory sensory neurons do not. This suggests that the coronavirus infects the support cells, leaving the neurons vulnerable and deprived of nutrients.
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What Is Loss Of Taste
Its uncommon to lose your ability to taste. Most often, a loss of smell makes foods taste bland.
The medical term for a complete inability to taste is ageusia . More people have hypogeusia, which means foods and drinks dont taste as flavorful as they should.
Taste buds become less sensitive after age 50. Foods may taste bitter even when theyre not. You may have a harder time telling when things are sweet or salty too.
Nasal Sprays To Reduce Inflammation
An over-the-counter nasal steroid spray like Flonase or Nasacort may be another option to clear up sinus inflammation. These sprays start working quickly and are generally safe, especially if youre only taking them for a short amount of time. There are some people who shouldnt use nasal sprays. So, before picking one up, its a good idea to ask your doctor if its a good treatment for you.
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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.
Limitations Of The Study
The authors of the new study report several limitations of their research.
For example, they write that they evaluated participants at different time points after their infection, and there was no age-matched control group for comparison.
In addition, they say most of the participants were women who had experienced only mild symptoms of COVID-19, which could limit the generalizability of the findings.
For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.
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Q: How Can A Virus Cause Smell And Taste Loss
One possibility is that people with upper respiratory infections often have congestion, drainage and other nasal symptoms that can block odors ability to reach the smell nerve, which sits at the top of the nasal cavity. But, we believe the primary cause, particularly for people with extended or permanent loss of smell function, is that the virus causes an inflammatory reaction inside the nose that can lead to a loss of the olfactory, or smell, neurons.
In some cases, this is permanent, but in other cases, the neurons can regenerate. Thats likely what determines which patients recover. In COVID-19, we believe smell loss is so prevalent because the receptors for COVID-19 that are expressed in human tissue are most commonly expressed in the nasal cavity and in the supporting cells of the olfactory tissue. These supporting cells surround the smell neurons and allow them to survive.
Q: What Is Known About The Covid
A recent study based on retrospective data showed that patients who had normal smell function in COVID-19 appeared to have a worse disease course and were more likely to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. This suggests patients who experience smell dysfunction may have a milder infection or disease. The data we have so far also suggest that in a substantial percentage of the COVID-19-infected population, smell loss can be one of the first or only signs of disease. It may precede symptoms that are more commonly associated with COVID-19, such as cough and fever. It has even been proposed that smell and taste loss could be a screening tool since these symptoms appear so early.
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A Different Line Of Attack
Covid-19 isn’t the first illness to lead to a loss of taste or smell. A nasty cold, the flu, even bad allergies can cause nasal congestion that renders those senses useless. But in those cases, using a decongestant can help, even if only temporarily.
Not so with Covid-19, experts say. Instead, the coronavirus dulls those senses through a different line of attack.
“This is an inflammatory process of the nerve itself or of the cells,” said Dr. Nina Shapiro, a pediatric head and neck surgeon at UCLA School of Medicine.
A person’s sense of smell works like this: An odor molecule enters the nose and lands on a special type of tissue called the olfactory epithelium. This tissue is filled with neurons, which pick up the odor molecule and transport it through the olfactory bulb and into the brain, where it’s interpreted as, say, the scent of roses.
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.
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