he University of Utah recently went on the record with concerns of growing phenomena with COVID-19 infections, that is parosmia. A condition where normal smells, from coffee to bananas changes into an unpleasant or even repulsive smell such as rotten meat or garbage. Parosmia wasn’t as common in previous COVID-19 waves but now in Utah and elsewhere the condition becomes ever more commonplace.
Recently Richard Orlandi, MD, ear, nose, and throat physician, and professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Utah Health shared some insight into this common symptom associated with COVID-19. The reality is that according to the University of Utah Health “Very little is understood about the relationship between COVID-19 and parosmia. It may not seem as urgent as other long-term symptoms of COVID-19 such as heart problems, depression, and respiratory illness. However, physicians say it can be problematic.”
Prof. Orlandi shared “Your sense of smell is important,” Orlandi says. “It’s what helps you enjoy food and sense danger, as in the case of smoke. It’s connected to our memories, such as the way your mom or grandma’s perfume smells. Depending on the severity, this condition can range from an annoyance to a frustrating and anxiety-inducing symptom.”
What follows is a summary of the University of Utah Health overview of COVID-19-based parosmia.
Why does COVID-19 lead to parosmia?
No one knows.
How long does the condition last?
One study out of Iraq suggests up to six months but the average duration is about 3 months.
What about a treatment—any?
There is no known treatment for COVID-19-induced parosmia however some believe “smell therapy” could help. As described by the University of Utah Health this therapy “involves smelling strong scents such as citrus, perfume, ammonia, or eucalyptus each day to re-train the brain to “remember” how to smell. More study is needed to know if this therapy actually works.” The “U” suggests that after that the best thing to do is avoid offending scent triggers.
Prof. Orlandi shared “Right now, so little is known about the long-term effects of COVID-19,” Orlandi says. “This is just one of the many long-term symptoms doctors and researchers are studying. All we really know is that the majority of patients do experience a return of their normal senses of taste and smell, but it’s unclear if and how many patients will get fully back to normal.“
Richard Orlandi, MD