Still without your sense of smell, post-COVID? This unique therapy might make all the difference

A woman, behind a mask, tries to smell a flower. (Engin Akyurt from Pixabay, Engin Akyurt from Pixabay)

There have been many reports identifying the loss of sense of smell as one of the primary symptoms of COVID-19.

While some experience the loss for days, there are others who experience it for months. Then, there are some who, even months after having lived through COVID-19, still haven’t regained their sense of smell.

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Anosmia is the temporary loss of smell, and not only is it the earliest and most commonly reported indicator of the coronavirus, but it’s also the main neurological symptom, according to Harvard Medical School.

Impacts on life

Your sense of smell is something you might not realize impacts you as much as it does. Just ask someone who has lost it.

According to Dr. Robert H. Shmerling in a Harvard Health blog, losing that sense can come with a cost, affecting quality of life in different aspects:

  • Stimulation of appetite.
  • Alerting you to foods that you shouldn’t eat, such as something that may be spoiled or rotting.
  • How much you taste something.
  • Warning you of danger, such as smoke with a fire.

An organization called AbScent has created the Sense of Smell Project, aimed specifically at helping people to get their sense of smell back. The company claims that smell training can be helpful in regaining sense of smell.

It “has been demonstrated in over a dozen scientific studies to be of benefit for people who have lost their sense of smell after a virus or injury,” the website says.

We should be clear: This is not a cure for loss of smell. Think of it it, instead, as a type of therapy for your nose, amplifying your recovery.

How it works

What exactly does smell training entail? Basically, sniffing strong-smelling oils.

To start, you’ll need a smell-training kit. You can buy one, or you can make your own -- whichever you’d prefer. By using essential oils, you stimulate the olfactory nerves that help you to smell.

According to AbScent, the original training essential oils were rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus. While these are the standard fragrances, you can choose any oils based on your preferences.

You can do a self-assessment before you begin smell training. AbScent says to think of it as the “starting line,” and it can help you to keep track of your progress.

Executing the “therapy”

Following through with smell training is simple and doesn’t take much time.

  • Keep your training kit easily accessible throughout the day.
  • Open one of the oils and hold it close to your nose. Sniff for about 20 seconds and focus on what you are doing. If you’re smelling lemon, try to recall your experience of lemon.
  • After finishing the first one, move onto the rest of the oils, repeating the process.
  • Repeat several times a day.

“Smell training is not a far-fetched notion,” Nancy Rawson, a cell biologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, told AbScent. “It is based on years of learning how the olfactory and nervous systems work, and specifically, how nerve cells -- and especially olfactory nerve cells -- are generated or maintained.”

Benefiting you

AbScent says the earlier you begin smell training, the greater benefit you’ll enjoy in the long run. Plus, it’s a way you can try to take control of the situation.

“Not only is smell training helping the olfactory receptor cells, it also is helping to create pathways in the brain that will be better able to receive, interpret and remember the information that it is getting,” Rawson said.

Want to hear more from other people who have suffered from smell loss? This Facebook forum is where you can find support and advice from others.

Learn more about smell training, and find helpful resources, by clicking here.

Did you survive COVID-19 and you still haven’t regained your sense of smell? I’d love to hear more about your experience. Click here to send me an email.

About the Author

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.

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