May 24, 2022

“Baby, Come Back”—Losing my sense of Taste & Smell during the Pandemic.


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Have you had COVID-19?

“Hmm. Yes, no, I’m not sure. I think so. My Covid test came back inconclusive.”

Thirty-seven percent of Covid patients lose their taste and smell. That is a whopping 4 out of 10 people. COVID-19 patients report losing their sense of taste as well as their sense of smell, but scientists have been sceptical as the two senses are closely related, and it was rare for people to lose their taste sense before the Covid pandemic.

Here we are, two years in, and this by-product of having had Covid is affecting more people than we realise, and we can put it in the category of unprecedented.

I lost my sense of taste and smell in August of 2021.

One would think that I would have had some of my glorious taste buds back after nine months, but I’ve had no such luck. Not even a little bit. It’s right about now where I want to break into the song, “Baby, come back,” by The Equals.

As the saying goes: “You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone.”

Can you imagine life without your sense of taste or smell? At this point, I’ll try anything. I’m finally feeling totally defeated not being able to smell my favourite perfume, candle, or enjoy my favourite snack, as I go on my own journey to dive deeper into what is going on.

I opened my favourite Doritos crisp packet of Nacho Cheese while cuddling into my blanket and getting ready for the ultimate delight and explosion of flavour. My mind receptors automatically tapped into the experience of what it should taste like with a slight tingling on the tongue, a hint of spice, and at the first bite, chew, crunch, and swallow.

I was left disappointed as there was nothing. I feel the hot spice around my lips, but I may as well be eating cardboard.

It’s not only the enjoyment of food or the enjoyment of lush scents, but survival itself that is at stake. Imagine buying a piece of meat. You have the whole meal planned out in your mind. You bought it a few days ago, and you know it needs to be eaten, and you decide to make it for dinner, but there is no way of telling if it has gone off.

I can see an expiry date, but can I trust it? It looks okay, but I can’t smell if it is. Do I risk eating it and potentially ending up with food poisoning?

Having this disadvantage comes with ups and downs.

The ups are that I don’t have to deal with that pungent smell that comes with cracking open a rotten egg, or not being able to smell those smelly pfttt farts after feeding the family a hearty veggie meal. Excuse the vulgar language.

But thinking about it, I would happily embrace the rolling thunder of a butt burp all day in exchange to have the gift of my two senses back. Too much information, I know.

To reiterate, our survival depends on us being able to taste and smell.

We’ve heard blind people can compensate for their lack of sight with enhanced hearing or other abilities. We see this with the musical talents of Stevie Wonder who lost his sight at an early age, having an advantage in other areas. Then there’s the superhero Daredevil, who is blind but uses his heightened remaining senses to fight crime.

Hearing and sight can compensate each other, and so can taste and smell, but losing both appears to be problematic. However, with some training and the nerves, remembering this shouldn’t be long-lasting, or so they say. As our taste and smell are largely controlled by the olfactory nerves, and the olfactory nerves are the only known parts of the nervous system to regrow after being damaged, there isn’t much of a brain-shifting effort if those senses are damaged somehow.

The body and brain will attempt to fix these senses, rather than compensate for them in another way or in another cortex.

As I continue to investigate this phenomena, I discovered a “Snif” App. This involves sniffing four things that have a distinctive, easily identifiable, and familiar smell, for example, oranges, mint, garlic, or coffee, twice a day for several months.

There’s support and help if you have also been affected and to find comfort in the knowing that you are not alone.

My exciting journey continues to retrain my two lost senses, and I can only hope I get there one day.


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