Living with a permanent loss of smell and taste: Covid-19 Edition

/ Loss of Smell

What seems to be a symptom that occurs 41% of the time; a loss of taste and smell has now become a living nightmare for people who have recovered from the coronavirus. The doctors believe that it is temporary but cannot signify a clear timeframe after which the problem will be resolved. The coronavirus infection is known to kill the olfactory sensory neurons. There have been patients who have not smelled since months of getting cured and they fear that they might have permanently lost the sensation to do so.

“I knew that I had got the virus when I could not smell and everything tasted like nothing,” says Maha Anjum, a UAE resident, “However, when I tested negative after two weeks, I still could not smell a thing. If you cannot smell it, chances are you cannot taste it properly, and it has been four months since I’m healthy but I cannot smell a thing.”

The diminished taste of smell can sometimes be the only symptom of the virus, but, it has existed long before the virus. Known as anosmia, and also called smell blindness, can be partial or total. It is caused by severe flu, allergy, sinus infection, injury to the nose or smell nerves, head trauma, and now, through the coronavirus.

Depending from patient to patient, we do not know how it impacts the body during the virus transmission and why even if the virus leaves, it chooses to stay. We interviewed a man who lost his ability to smell at the age of ten, and this is his story to the coronavirus warriors living without smell.

“When I first stopped smelling, I could imagine what the omelet in front of me smelled like, and the scent of buttered toast that came along with it but soon after, I forgot that as well. The taste, as hard as I try, is not the same without the smell and I have learned to live with it. And not being able to smell your favorite food is not the hard part,” says Mehmood Pervaiz.

According to Mehmood, when he hit puberty, he was told that even though he couldn’t smell himself, others could. It was problematic for him to know when to shower, and when not to, since to him, his body odor was non-existent, just as the scent of the perfumes resting on his washroom shelf were; he could not smell it. But after he learned to rule that problem out, more arose.

“Once, I burned my cookies in the oven, and I only got to know when the fire alarm went off. Apparently, the smell spread throughout the entire house and I was not aware. I could not smell if the food or the milk had gone bad and I had it, even the taste wasn’t as nasty as I expected it to be, as it was of most things, resulting in an upset stomach.”

The struggles for him didn’t end, when he got married and had a son, he didn’t really know when he needed to be changed, or what the child smelled like, or what he could tell the child about smell. It was devastating for him to know that the absence of smell was such a loss. However, as time went by, he got used to it. Surely, he wanted it to come back terribly, but it did not hinder him from living life to the fullest. Here is his advice on dealing with anosmia gotten through the coronavirus:

1.      Don’t Lose Hope

Loss of smell and taste is one of the symptoms of the virus. Even if you have it after recovery, chances are that it will go away in time. For the past year, we did not have the vaccine and now people are getting the shots for free. Hence, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is permanent, and don’t let it stress you.

2.      You Can’t Smell Unpleasant Situations

That’s right – if there’s a smell you cannot stand, be it that of someone’s mouth, a kitchen cabinet, or raw chicken, it won’t bother you. Whilst for others it might be a nuisance so believe it or not, there is an upside to it.

Doc’s Say: Parosmia is a phenomenon that occurs when the sense of smell returns and the person does not identify the smells like he/she used to before. Everything to them smells rancid.

3.      Let Others Know

Whilst more might say, “Really, you can’t smell it?” and not understand, your loved ones will get the problem. Even if they cannot relate to it (half the world with the virus currently can!), they will make sure to not put you in undesirable situations.

Man not eating food.
Not being able to smell might result in loss of appetite and weight loss. It is vital to let your loved ones know!

4.      Not All Taste Goes

Surely, the sense of taste is enhanced with that of smell, and losing it might not help you distinguish between some tastes or make them out, but the tongue can still tell between bitter, salt, sweet and salty edibles. Contrary to popular opinion, not everything will taste like cardboard. You may not be able to pinpoint exactly what went into making your favorite dish, but you can enjoy it.

5.      Make Sure The Doctor Knows

Your doctor needs to know exactly what is going on with your body to rule out the possibility of anything serious. The specialist will help to the best of their knowledge, and regular check-ups are vital. If the impossible state of corona can be resolved in two shots, so can your sense of smell.

Read More: Coronavirus Vaccine in the UAE
Read More: How to not let the Pandemic impact your Sexual Health

Living with a permanent loss of smell and taste: Covid-19 Edition
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