Taste and smell gone forever? The anguish of COVID-19 survivors

www.japantimes.co.jp
3 min read
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Sensory loss is estimated to affect more than 2 million Americans and 10 million people worldwide, according to an expert.
Three days after testing positive for COVID-19, "everything tasted like cardboard," recalls 38-year-old Elizabeth Medina, who lost her sense of taste and smell at the start of the pandemic. A year later, she fears she will never get them back.

Medina consulted ear, nose and throat doctors and neurologists, tried various nasal sprays, and is part of a group of patients undergoing experimental treatment that uses fish oil.

To try to stimulate her senses, she puts copious amounts of spices on everything she eats, pours aromatic herbs into her tea and regularly sniffs a bracelet soaked in essential oils.

But her attempts have been in vain. Medina, a guidance counselor at a New York school, says she has lost many everyday pleasures she once enjoyed, including eating and cooking.

She says she has cried every day for months.

Medina is one of a growing number of people with lasting anosmia — a poorly understood disorder that has become an underestimated consequence for many in the pandemic.

Most COVID-19 sufferers who lose the ability to taste or smell recover "within three or four weeks," according to Valentina Parma, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia.

But 10% to 15% lose the senses for months, said Parma. She chairs the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research (GCCR), which was formed at the start of the pandemic to study the problem.

Sensory loss is estimated to affect more than 2 million Americans and 10 million people worldwide,…
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