For those who experience “long Covid,” symptoms that long outlast the viral infection, loss of taste and smell is quite common, but doctors have concern over the impact this will have on people’s appetite and mental health. Fortunately, “smell therapy” is offering relief for some who have lost their sense of smell.
Long before the pandemic hit, a German doctor helped develop and standardize smell training for patients who experienced anosmia, loss of sense of smell, or even parosmia, a distorted sense of smell. The process is tedious but fairly simple. It involves sniffing four essential oils for 20 seconds every day for several months. Patients are encouraged to visualize memories associated with each scent as they smell.
The protocol for smell therapy was first tested on individuals with parosmia. Dr. Thomas Hummel asked 40 patients with a distorted sense of smell to follow the regimen and found that after 12 weeks, all participants regained at least some sense of smell, while those in the control group did not.
In the UK, a group called AbScent is helping bring smell therapy to a wider audience. The founder, Chrissi Kelly, lost her sense of smell after a viral infection in 2012, but when she went to explore smell therapy, she found very few resources available. AbScent now offers a four-scent guide to smell therapy and Kelly has created a Facebook group for Covid-19 patients experiencing anosmia to share their stories and access information.
Loss of smell associated with Covid-19 is perplexing to doctors because unlike colds or flus, which lead to loss of smell due to congestion, with the virus, patients can feel perfectly healthy and just lack all sense of smell. This sense is particularly complex because it relies on not only what your sensors pick up, but also how your brain interprets this information. And it’s easy for these wires to get crossed. Fortunately, groups like AbScent are helping spread awareness about smell therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with long Covid.