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Ones For Wellness: COVID-19 Survivors Experience Smell Distortions

(CBSDFW.COM) - Some survivors of COVID-19 are reporting distortion of the sense of smell weeks and even months after the infection is gone.

"I thought I had a sinus infection," Amanda Smith recalls. Her COVID-19 infection started like any other last July.

She lost her sense of smell and taste. Then she started feeling tightness in the chest, fatigue and difficulty breathing.

She tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after. "The funny thing is throughout all of that, I never once ran a fever," she recalls.

Thankfully, she recovered and went back to work. There were no lingering symptoms except she never quite got her sense of smell back. And five months since the infection, she's still smelling things that don't make sense.

"I have this putrid smell that I can't even describe, all foul smelling things have the same smell," she said. "I can't distinguish one smell from another and I will occasionally get the phantom smells it, but it's not terrible it just, I'll get like cigarette smoke when there's none around."

Dr. Nikhil Bhayani, an infection disease specialist at Texas Health Resources, says loss of smell is common after COVID-19 infections. Sometimes the sense comes back and sometimes it takes a while

"With covid it's been observed that it affects the nerves that allow you to smell," he said,

"They're slightly injured or damaged. So that's why it leads to that phantom smell and loss of smell." he added.

He says some survivors suffer from Parosmia -- a disorder that distorts the odors and make it unpleasant. Others report odors that aren't there, a condition called Phantosmia.

Bhayani says sometimes it can help to smell different things.

"It's sort of like you know just sort of stimulate olfactory nerves continues smelling different types of perfumes," he said.

Smelling scents like lemon, eucalyptus, rose and cloves can help retrain the brain.

Amanda says it's been distracting and sometimes depressing. She's been dealing with it since July.

"At this point, I'd rather go back to having no smell," she said.

She's worried about the long-term impact on her health.

Bhayani says COVID-19 survivors should see a doctor if the problem continues. Smell dysfunction is unique to COVID-19. So if you find that your sense of smell is gone, get a covid test and isolate yourself.


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