HAWESVILLE, Ky. — It’s one of the most defining and unnerving symptoms of COVID-19: a lingering loss of taste and smell.

Makenna Hall of Hawesville said despite recovering from COVID-19 more than three months ago, she still hasn’t fully recovered her sense of taste and smell.

“Losing everything that I had everyday was just terrifying,” Hall said. “Tasteless food just textures in your mouth. So, like all I could focus on was the texture that was in mouth and the way it felt like chewing it.”

What You Need To Know

  • Loss of taste and smell is a common symptom of COVID-19
  • For some who recover, the symptom lingers for a long time
  • Many who lose their senses also lose their appetite, leading to unintended weight loss
  • Smell therapy can be used to help regain the senses of smell and taste

According to a recent study from the Journal of Internal Medicine, about 86% of people with a mild case of COVID-19 lose their sense of smell and taste.

“Mom made this pasta the other night and I don’t even like it, but I was just so excited to eat it, and taste it, even it was something if I didn’t like it was better than tasting nothing,” Hall said.

Many people whose senses have been muted like Halls will lose their appetites, putting them at risk of unintended weigh loss. The 18-year-old lost 35 pounds.

“I didn’t crave anything. I never felt hungry because I couldn’t taste so I just started losing weight,” Hall explained.

Even months after the infection is gone, hall is still reporting distoriton of the sense of smell too. “Like showering, couldn’t smell any of my soaps. I felt like I wasn’t even washing myself,” Hall said.

Navid Pour-Ghasemi is an infectious disease specialist at Norton Healthcare. He said loss of smell is a common symptom after having COVID-19. He says sometimes people regain their senses right away, while others who got their infection months ago still haven’t gotten them back.

“It’s a course for each individual patient for sure. Some have and some haven’t, but of that group that I’ve been following about half of them have gotten their sense of smell back and the other half are on the road to recovery,” Pour-Ghasemi said. 

Health officials say losing your sense of smell has to do with a nerve injury that maybe caused by inflammation. 

“The thought process is the virus gets in there and causes a lot of inflammation which sort of disrupts the nerves normal functioning and that’s leading to the loss of smell which in turn leads to a loss in taste,” Pour-Ghasemi explained.

As a result, some medical experts are encouraging their patients who have recovered from the virus to turn to smell therapy to try to speed up the process.

“There’s limited data on actual good interventions to make this come back faster, but I’ve been recommending different types of smell therapies to my patients.”

For now, Dr. Pour-Ghasemi is advising people who are still regaining their senses to continue with life as normal as possible and continue to eat and drink. 

“Keep them coming that way it can get back to normal quicker. It’s almost like the same thing as like a muscle if you don’t use it you lose it.”

Medical experts say survivors should seeks assistance from their doctor if the problem continues.

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