A post-COVID-19 experience by WIBX's Bill Keeler

You've survived COVID-19 and now it's been more than two months and you still have problems with your sense of smell and taste. This is the type of complaint doctors are hearing from their patients during the spread of coronavirus.

Not everybody who gets COVID has issues with their smell and taste. It's estimated that about 80-percent of the people who've had the virus suffer from the symptom, and an even smaller percentage, about 10-percent according to the study, have been dealing with the symptom for weeks and even months after recovery.

The symptom is call parosmia, or odor distortion and according to a study done back in June at Oxford, it's more about a distorted smell and taste than it is about the loss thereof. The study showed another side effect called Phantosmia, which is more random and causes people to without a trigger, smell an unwanted foul odor that can seem present for hours or even days, as reported in Smithsonian Magazine.

They no longer wake up and can’t smell the coffee; because of parosmia, their coffee smells like burning rubber or sewage. Parosmia is most often an unpleasant smell, a distortion of an actual odor, making many foods smell and taste revolting. Phantosmia is more random, occurring without a scent trigger, uninvited and unwanted. Phantosmias, which can be fleeting or linger, are also usually foul smells, often cigarette smoke or burning wood—or for one poster on Reddit, “everything smells like a more disgusting version of Spaghetti O’s.” - Smithsonian Magazine

My wife Alison and I, and our daughter all had the virus back around the holidays. Both my wife and daughter had mild symptoms along with an extended period of fatigue. I had the fever and aches, low blood pressure and was in bed for about four days. We were each very lucky as we didn't experience the severe breathing issues that tend to land people in the hospital. However, since recovering we've each dealt with different lingering symptoms that seem to be completely related to COVID.

My daughter suffered from fatigue for about two weeks. My symptoms have been acute fatigue for nearly two months, along with extreme neck/shoulder/arm pain and numbness that is excruciating at times. But, my wife's lingering symptom has been the dreaded taste and smell issue.

"It's not just that I can't smell or taste anything still, it's the problem that at times all I can smell is like a burnt smokey odor. It's like the smell on your clothes after sitting by a camp fire and I completely hate that smell. It makes me sick," said Alison. "Sometimes the smell is so bad I can't bring myself to eat anything. Still, while this is annoying and sickening at times, it pales in comparison to what some people suffer from when the virus attacks their lungs," she said.

A friend of mine who said the virus swept through his home back in March complained recently that he still doesn't have his taste and smell back. He said he can some things he can smell, but mostly foods and normally pleasant things now have either a poisonous odor or all he can smell is a disgusting cologne that makes him sick to his stomach.

The problems with smell and taste seem to be happening because the virus has caused damage to the portion of the neurological system that transmit the sense to the neurons in the brain, according to Nancy Rawson, vice president and associate director at Monell Chemical Senses Center, a non-profit interdisciplinary research institute in Philadelphia. Rawson told the Smithsonian that there is good news for these "long haulers" as they've been called by researchers. She says the neurons and their infrastructure will regenerate over time, which should bring back the sense of proper smell and taste. Unfortunately, the regeneration process takes time, usually about two years.

They don't call them "long haulers" for nothing.

Read the complete report in Smithsonian Magazine - Science here.


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