Many who’ve had COVID-19 have experienced the loss of smell and taste. Here’s what experts know about how long it can last.
COVID-19 symptoms and recovery vary dramatically from person to person. While some experience the virus and recover within a couple of weeks, others experience strange repercussions, among them the loss of taste and smell which can last from weeks to months.
Medically speaking, these symptoms are known as anosmia (loss of smell) and ageusia (loss of taste), and they can affect people temporarily when they experience a strong cold or flu. They can also be side effects to smoking or some type of medication. When applied to COVID-19, these symptoms are more pronounced and tend to occur suddenly, producing a noticeable change.
We don’t know enough about the virus to explain why this is occurring, but experts have different theories. For short term cases, it’s believed that the congestion produced by infections on the upper respiratory tract can block smell. For long term losses of smell and taste, experts believe that the virus plays a role in inflaming the inside of the nose, causing the loss of olfactory neurons. There’s no known remedy for this except time and hoping that sooner or later your body will heal itself.
The Huffington Post spoke with Chrissy Kelly, founder of AbScent, a support group for people who’ve lost their sense of smell and taste. The group was founded years before the pandemic, but it has experienced a boon of interest during the year.
“It’s estimated that around half of COVID-19 patients experience changes to their sense of taste and smell,” Kelly explained. “Most will recover within two to three weeks, but many thousands are still working towards recovery many months later.”
As a way of coping with this new condition, Kelly recommends patients create textures with foods, mixing creamy and crunchy, and to practice smell training. This consists of sniffing a panel of scents twice a day for a period of at least four months, with each session being focused and mindful. “It’s safe, anyone can do it and it’s well researched and recommended by doctors,” she said.
Individual experiences with COVID-19 change drastically, with some experiencing the return of their senses within weeks and others having to wait months in order to be able to smell and taste again.