Denver (KDVR) – A fraction of recovering COVID-19 patients have long-term side effects that prevent them from enjoying common foods.
Parosmia is a condition in which a person experiences a distorted sense of smell. Dr David Beckham, a neuro-infectious disease expert at UCHealth in Colorado, says that one form of this neurological side effect of COVID-19 is commonly found in larger studies. It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of the patients he saw reported that they had an abnormal odor or taste.
Beckham says studies show that the condition occurs after the virus has damaged nerves in an area of the sinuses. He says that could fundamentally disrupt the signals required to travel from the sensory nerves in the nose to the brain.
“We don’t really understand why some people get this and some don’t, we know that they can recover over time. It just depends on how badly those nerves are injured,” Beckham said.
Amanda Frankini experienced a copy of that show about a week after the first symptoms of COVID-19 appeared in March.
“I began to notice things taste just right. I couldn’t really smell anything. The chocolate tasted like red meat, and then my taste disappeared with my smell.”
No foods seem so delicious, says Frankeni, a dietitian. Her sense of taste and smell was distorted upon her return after two weeks.
“It was the worst part of the disease, I think, compared to everything,” Frankeni said.
Other patients, such as Britney Hansen, have long-term parosmia. Hansen says she lost her sense of taste and smell about a week after her first symptoms appeared in March. Her husband was also taken to hospital due to his infection with the virus.
Hansen said, “I thought I was overwhelmed by everything else, so it was like, ‘Oh, there’s one more thing to deal with.”
After nine months, Hansen has regained an altered sense of taste and smell that prevents her from consuming most hot foods and liquids.
“It’s like a dead, horrible thing that makes you want to vomit. The coffee and steak smell like rotting dead meat,” said Hansen.
Hansen tried using aromatherapy with essential oils to retrain her senses. She says the side effects forced her to cut meat from her diet.
“It’s hard for me to cook for my family.” Hansen said, “My husband and son are huge eaters of meat, so sometimes I have to wear a mask.
In a year that many have suffered, Hansen says she is almost accustomed to her new lifestyle and is unsure if her senses will return to normal.
“Eating is a social thing. I’ve never been a great chef before, but I enjoy eating well and just feel like this experience has changed.”
Beckham says there isn’t enough information on these symptoms to understand the long-term effect. Anyone experiencing similar symptoms is advised to stay in close contact with their doctor and monitor for any changes.
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