General, Research, Technology

Could the sense of smell be completely lost due to the coronavirus?

Imagine that you suddenly lost your sense of smell. The smell of morning coffee, the aroma of fresh pastries and your favorite dish now live only in your memory. The complete loss of the ability to smell is called anosmia. This is an extremely unpleasant condition that can significantly impair the quality of life. The researchers note that anosmia can be both congenital and acquired, and the latter can have many reasons. One of these reasons was the new coronavirus infection SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19. So, the results of the latest research, as reported by the Inverse edition, show that 50 to 96 percent of people with confirmed Covid-19 show measurable olfactory dysfunction or complete loss of smell. And 40 to 50 percent of people seem to have an inability to taste food. But can anosmia remain forever after Covid-19?

The inability to smell and taste food can make life difficult.

Smelling process begins when the substance is a flower orfreshly baked bread, for example - releases molecules that stimulate odor-specific nerve cells high in the nasal cavity. These nerve cells send information to a specific area of ​​the brain, which identifies the source of a specific smell and conveys other relevant information, such as whether it is signaling something burning.

Coronavirus, anosmia and dysgeusia

A condition in which a person does not taste food is called dysgeusia. As researchers at the Mayo Clinic write, The prevalence of anosmia / dysgeusia in people infected with Covid-19 is, on average, 28.6 times higher than in people who have never had Covid-19. Moreover, the results obtained showed thatanosmia / dysgeusia in most cases was one of the earliest signs of the disease. For most people, anosmia goes away within a month or two, and the same goes for dysgeusia. However, for some people, the ability to smell and taste may never return.

Inverse brings stories of several youngpeople who have had coronavirus, whose sense of smell and ability to taste has not recovered. So, Alexandra has been living with anosmia and dysgeusia for seven months now. Although her ability to taste is partially back, she still does not smell anything other than very strong coffee and gasoline.

To be sure, anosmia and dysgeusia are no match for some of the most severe symptoms of Covid-19, such as respiratory distress or damage to the lungs, liver, and heart. But these sensory effects can be extremely unpleasant and negatively affect the daily lives of thousands of people in ways they could not even imagine.

Christina Alexander, 26, has been dealing with anosmia for more than seven months since she contracted Covid-19.

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Sudden loss of smell is quitewidespread and such cases are becoming more and more. Moreover, about 40% of such people did not have a cough or a fever. Some scholars, such as John Hayes of the University of Pennsylvania, argue that Anosmia is the single best predictor of Covid-19. While there is a low fever or cougheasily ignored or ascribed to other problems, such as allergies, sudden loss of smell is noticeable and more difficult to explain. These sensory signals are often the earliest and only indicators of disease, especially in asymptomatic people.

The evidence is clear. Countries should recognize loss of smell and / or taste as a key symptom of Covid-19, along with fever and cough, ”says Butterham. People who notice a change in their ability to smell everyday household odors such as garlic, onions, coffee and perfume should self-isolate and seek PCR testing for Covid-19.

Another person interviewed by Inverse's journalistnamed Young, says he lost his sense of taste for two weeks. A 34-year-old man from London began experimenting to see if he could smell something. "I threw a lot of pepper into what I ate just to get a sore mouth." For both Young and Alexandra, facing life without the taste of their favorite drink, macaroni and cheese or ice cream was gloomy.

“I didn't have suicidal thoughts or anythingstill, but I had serious questions about whether living that kind of life is worth living, ”Young says. - It was very scary to think that it could be forever. I don't know what I would do. "

Interesting: Bad smells make memories stronger

Odorless and tasteless life

As noted by people facing losssense of smell and dysgeusia, these conditions cause serious mental health damage, far more than they might expect. People have different attitudes towards not smelling anymore. Someone accepts this and moves on, but for others it becomes the center of life. Of course, everyone's experience with anosmia and dysgeusia is unique, but often loss of these feelings threatens health and well-being.

On average, the sense of smell is restored after eight to nine days.

People with olfactory dysfunction reportdifficulties with cooking, decreased appetite, loss of pleasure in eating, problems maintaining personal hygiene and social relationships, fear of dangerous events or feeling less secure, and more severe symptoms of depression and loneliness. According to a 2015 study, odor loss is associated with a three times higher mortality rate in older adults.

The researchers note that loss of smell andtaste noticeably affects the quality of human life. Anosmia also poses a threat to the person himself and those around him, since such people may simply not feel the gas leak.

Generally, the ability to smelldetermines how people navigate the world. It fundamentally affects our ability to taste food and detect dangerous threats in the environment. Smells can be both pleasant and irritating, but they are always helpful. People who lose their sense of smell for other reasons are advised to wait, make sure that the diet is balanced, and, if possible, exercise, for example, sniffing ground coffee every day.