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‘Smell training’ therapy helping with loss of taste, smell caused by COVID-19

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Posted at 11:42 AM, Apr 14, 2021

There are a number of things that can cause you to lose your sense of taste and smell, but with COVID-19, it has been a common side effect.

People report not being able to smell at all while they have the coronavirus and having a distorted sense of smell after recovery. That can mean your coffee smelling like gasoline or orange juice smelling like a dirty diaper.

We spoke with a doctor at the Monell Chemical Senses Center to learn more about how people are working to smell again.

“At present, we think that the only therapy that’s recommended is something we call ‘smell training,’ or ‘smell retraining’ if you will. That’s using a very ritualistic experience twice a day with maybe four to possibly six different odorants, and trying to smell them as well as linking that experience, whether you have a conscious experience of it or not, with what you remember that smelled like before,” said Dr. Pamela Dalton, Senior Scientist at Monell Center Philadelphia.

Dr. Dalton says there’s no real risks to this treatment, just some possible boredom and frustration. But it can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Dalton says you can use things like shampoo or spices in your cabinet. She recommends smelling them for five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening.

There are also kits you can buy online.

While there is no risk to the treatment, there are some serious risks to not correcting your senses. That includes things like not being able to smell if there is smoke or a gas leak in your home, not recognizing that food is spoiled before eating it, and in some cases, eating disorders.

‘The eating disorders that occur from loss of sense of smell go in two different directions believe it or not. Some people stop eating because everything is unappealing to them and they lose tremendous amounts of weight, and other people actually gain weight because they’re looking for that satiation. They’re looking for the satisfaction,” said Dr. Dalton.

Dr. Dalton says when you lose your sense of smell, you can really only taste strong flavors, like sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

There are actually new cookbooks being sold to help people with this. One that just came out is called “Taste and Flavour.” It focuses on strong flavors, as well as the texture of food.