“Learning to smell”: this is how smell is rehabilitated after covid-19 3:01
(CNN) – Alisson Clark learned that he definitely had covid-19 last September when he lost his taste and smell.
“I had a cup of coffee in the morning, and it was just hot,” said Clark, a national media strategist at the University of Florida.
“I had felt so good during quarantine that I thought it might be a false positive, but when that happened I was like ‘OK, it’s real,'” Clark said.
A few months later, he noticed an unusual smell while washing his hair with his favorite shampoo.
“Lavender is my favorite scent, but now the shampoo smelled like sulfur and gunpowder,” she said.
Suddenly a series of things had a strange, distorted smell. Red meat smelled “gross, rotten” and anything with alcohol gel smelled “disgusting.”
«The worst thing is the alcohol gel, because it is everywhere. It smells like cheap tequila and ham, with notes of old lady perfume, ”Clark said.
“Or that’s what I think it would smell like,” he added. “It’s not something I’ve smelled in the real world, certainly.”
Clark suffers from parosmia, a distortion of smell that occurs when receptor cells in the nose fail to detect and translate smells properly to the brain. This can happen after a cold or sinusitis, a head injury, seizures, and certain medications.
Parosmia has also been linked to a complete loss of the senses of smell and taste, called anosmia, which has become a sign of mild to moderate COVID-19 infections.
Six months after his covid-19 diagnosis, Clark’s nose is still recovering.
“I can detect smells, I just can’t tell what they are,” Clark said. “So I hope this parosmia is the brain trying to recover and smell again.”
One year of recovery
A new study published Thursday in the JAMA Network Open magazine could give Clark hope.
The study followed 97 Covid-19 patients who had lost their sense of smell or taste over the course of a year. Every four months, patients were required to tell researchers how much they felt their olfactory function was recovering. Of the study participants, 51 also underwent objective tests to check their olfactory ability at each four-month interval.
“At eight months, objective evaluations of olfactory ability confirmed the full recovery of 49 of the 51 patients (96.1%)”, Dr. Marion Renaud, otolaryngologist at the University Hospitals of Strasbourg in France, and his colleagues they wrote in the studio.
This is how covid-19 alters the sense of smell 2:20
Of the two patients who had not fully recovered, one was capable of smelling, but abnormally, while the other had not recovered his ability to smell.
An additional intriguing finding was that many of the people who had regained their olfactory function based on an objective smell test still believed that their sense of taste and smell was reduced. Of the 49 people who underwent the total recovery test, only 23 said they felt their sense of smell had fully returned.
“This highlights the importance of applying both methods for the assessment of postviral olfactory disorder,” the researchers wrote.
An early sign of covid-19
The unusual symptom of loss of smell was discovered relatively early in the pandemic. Studies have revealed that loss of smell can occur in between 40% and 68% of COVID-19 cases, appearing more frequently in mild or moderate cases, and affecting more women than men.
Although colds and other infections have been shown to affect the sense of smell, sometimes even permanently, an August 2020 study found there is a difference. The ability to detect sweet and sour tastes was especially impaired in COVID-19 patients compared to impaired in common cold patients.
“It is especially interesting that Covid-19 appears to particularly affect sweet and sour taste receptors, because these are known to play an important role in innate immunity,” said study author Carl Philpott, professor of rhinology and olfactology at Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, in a press release at the time.
Can you check your smell at home?
Yes, experts say that there are several ways to accurately test your sense of smell at home. One of them is the soft candy test.
“You take a soft candy in one hand, and with the other you hold your nose tightly so that the air does not flow,” Steven Munger, director of the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, told CNN in a previous interview.
«You put the soft caramel in your mouth and chew it. Let’s say it is a fruity candy: if you distinguish the flavor plus the sweetness of the jelly, you will know that you have a functional flavor, “said Munger.
Then, while you keep chewing, suddenly release your nose. If you have a sense of smell, you will suddenly perceive all the smells and say ‘Oh! that’s a lemon fudge ‘, or’ Oh! that’s cherry. ‘ It’s a very dramatic and quick response, it takes you by surprise, “he explains.
“If you can go from sour or sweet to full flavor and know what the taste is,” Munger said, “then your sense of smell is probably in pretty good shape.”
The scientific name for this process is retronasal olfaction, in which odors flow from the back of the mouth to the nasal cavity, passing through the pharynx.
But what if you don’t have a candy? You can also use other foods, according to otolaryngologist Dr. Erich Voigt, director of the division of sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health.
“The pure sense of smell would be if you can smell a particular substance that is not stimulating other nerves,” Voigt said. “So some examples of that would be if you can smell the coffee grounds or the coffee being brewed, or if you can smell someone peeling an orange. That is the sense of smell.
But you have to be careful, because it’s easy to think that the sense of smell is being used when it isn’t, Voigt said.
“For example, ammonia or cleaning solutions stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which is an irritating nerve,” he explains. “And that’s why people will think, ‘Oh, I can smell Clorox, I can smell ammonia, which means I can smell.’ But no, that is not correct. They are not actually smelling, they are using the trigeminal nerve.
Still not sure if you are getting it right? Look online for medical tests for scratching and sniffing.
If you are experiencing a loss of smell, be careful because there are dangers like not being able to smell a gas leak, or distinguishing rotten milk or stale food.
– CNN’s Jacqueline Howard and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.