Altered smells, tastes after COVID-19



Staff Reporter

After months of not being able to smell or taste food, I thought I had finally started to recover when I was finally able to perceive faint smells coming from my food. This delight, however, didn’t last long and as I began to regain my sense of smell, I noticed that things didn’t smell like they should.

Back in November when I tested positive for COVID-19, I only experienced mild symptoms compared to when I have the flu. The strongest symptom that I felt was mostly fatigue. However, I never gave my anosmia (loss of sense of smell and taste) too much thought at the time, since most people I know who lost their sense of smell and taste, had recovered them a week later. 

When I finally received a call from the Texas Health Department, telling me that I could come out of quarantine, I was told that the anosmia could last up to three months. As time went on, and as I began to go back to my normal routine, my sense of smell wasn’t getting any better. By Christmastime, I no longer had much of an appetite for many foods and meals. Everything seemed very bland. Every time I would bite into something that I had been craving for, I was just met with disappointment. The only thing that seemed to help was adding more chile to meals so that I could at least have the sensation of spiciness. 

Despite not being able to fully enjoy my meals, I could kind of still eat “normally” during this time. However, around mid-January, as I began to regain these senses and thinking that I would finally recover, I had no idea that the ordeal had just begun. In a period of two weeks, I went from not being able to smell anything to constantly smelling foul stenches everywhere. 

Three months of anosmia had turned into parosmia, which is the distortion of smell and taste. Food that I had been able to eat during the first few months after having COVID, had all of a sudden become intolerable. Not that I want to rant about my parosmia, but here are a few examples of what I mean. Fried foods make me feel as if I’m about to vomit, chile tastes like rotten onions or garlic, toothpaste tasted (for a while) like the leftover ashes on a barbecue grill, tortillas taste like an old, soggy piece of bread, and chicken and bread have smells so odd that I don’t even know how to describe them. Being Mexican, tortillas are a basic yet huge part of my diet and it is very depressing not being able to stomach them because of the smell and taste.

All in all, despite having problems with my sense of smell and taste for almost six months now, I am grateful for never experiencing serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing or getting pneumonia. Some smells and tastes are slowly coming back and becoming a little bit more normal. The only thing I can do is to be patient and wait until at least things go back to, somewhat, normal.

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