Doctor's Casebook: What you can do if Covid has affected your taste and smell

Loss of sense of taste and smell is one of the characteristic symptoms of Covid-19.

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 4:45 pm
COVID SYMPTOM: Things might smell uncharacteristically unpleasant. Photo: Getty Images

Last week I talked about recent research that red wine and cheese might be protective against age-related cognitive problems.

Unfortunately, for some people who have had Covid associated loss or distortion of taste and smell in the past year, these may not seem at all appetising.

As everyone undoubtedly is aware, loss of sense of taste and smell is one of the characteristic symptoms of Covid-19.

Post-infection about 50 per cent recover taste and smell within two to three weeks.

Another 40 per cent will recover it by eight weeks.

By the end of six months only two per cent will still have the problem.

In recovery a lot of people will experience ‘parosmia,’ meaning that their smell is distorted.

Things might smell uncharacteristically unpleasant, like burned toast for example.

Red wine might smell rancid or like vinegar and cheese and chocolate can taste and smell foul.

Phantosmia can also occur. This is when a smell is detected without an actual scent trigger.

Stale cigarettes or burned wood are often reported as lingering phantom smells.

Back in January I suggested that smell training can help post Covid parosmia.

A collaboration by the British Rhinological Society and the charity AbScent have made available at a website called ‘Nosewell,’ which gives lots of information and advice that might help, including how to make up your own smell training kit. Go to https://abscent.org/nosewell.

Taste will usually follow the same pattern of recovery.

Indeed, if taste is a big problem there are other things that you might also try.

Firstly, if certain foods are affecting your appetite, because of the distorted smell, you might find that changing the way you cook them helps.

Frying and grilling will produce more odours that may cause problems, while boiling, poaching and micro-waving may cause less.

Taste distortion often causes foods to taste metallic.

If that is the case, then try substituting metal cutlery for plastic, or even wood may help.

Similarly, use glass cookware rather than metal.

Foods can seem excessively bitter, or salty.

It is worth trying to reduce salt and also to use herbs like oregano as a salt substitute.

I am not generally in favour of adding sugar to drinks, but sweetening or adding a little honey may help overcome bitterness.