Medical Moment: Smelling issues & COVID

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 7:44 PM EST
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Many patients recovering from covid say they’re always fatigued, or they have chest pains and memory problems. And now, more people are reporting problems with their sense of smell.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to have a predilection for infecting the cells that live near the smell nerves and subsequently causing secondary injury or even the death of smell nerves,” says Ahmad Sedaghat, otolaryngologist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Sedaghat says as those nerves start to heal, about one to four months after the COVID infection, many patients are complaining of a condition called parosmia, a strange distortion of smell.

“The changes to the sense of smell are typically quite bothersome,” Sedaghat says. “They can be things like gasoline, smoke, fire, rotten food, rotten flesh.”

Sedaghat says anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of all patients who lost their sense of smell may experience parosmia as the nerves in their noses start to regenerate. He says the best treatment for parosmia is a type of therapy for the nose, called olfactory training.

“Which has been described as essentially practicing, smelling, concentrated odors to essentially stimulate your smell nerves.”

Regaining a normal sense of smell usually takes several months for most patients.

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