By now you’re probably aware that anosmia, the medical term for loss of smell, is one of the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19. While the exact number of patients affected varies, the experience averages out to about 41 percent.1 Indeed, loss of smell is so common that some professionals advocate using smell as a diagnostic test for the coronavirus, as it is often a more reliable indicator than other tools such as temperature.
Loss of smell is more than just an inconvenience. It can impact overall health; because smell is closely linked with taste, patients may lose their appetite and experience unintended weight loss. The inability to smell is also a safety concern, increasing the risk of injury or death from undetected smoke, gas leaks or spoiled food. For these reasons, it’s especially important to ensure smoke detectors are in good working condition and to check the expiration dates on food before consuming.
The vast majority of patients regain their sense of smell after recovering from COVID-19, but this may take weeks or even months. You may be able to speed up the process by stimulating the olfactory nerves through olfactory training. This involves smelling different essential oils such as rose, eucalyptus, cloves and lemon twice a day for 10 seconds at a time. Your ENT physician can prescribe and walk you through a regimen to help improve your sense of smell.
Don’t be surprised if aromas smell different than what you’re used to; troposmia (a distorted sense of smell) is a common side effect of anosmia. If you are unable to smell the above essences at all, try remembering what they smell like; the brain is a powerful tool and may be able to engage your senses. It may take some time, but you should notice an improvement in your ability to smell within a few weeks.
If you are experiencing loss of smell, whether related to COVID-19 or another factor, schedule an appointment with Willamette ENT for solutions to ensure all your senses are in tip-top shape.
1 Eliezer M, Hautefort C, Hamel AL, Verillaud B, Herman P, Houdart E, Eloit C. 2020. Sudden and complete olfactory loss function as a possible symptom of COVID-19. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 146(7):674–675. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.0832.
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