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Lost your sense of smell and taste? Here's how to help get it back

France Macron
Posted at 8:00 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 17:51:54-04

No sense of smell. No sense of taste. No idea what is going on. Sound familiar? If you're a COVID-19 long hauler, it likely does.

"For the bulk of people who get COVID-19, most will recover their sense of smell and taste pretty quickly," explains ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Janice Johnston with Redirect Health. "But there is a percentage of people who feel like their sense of smell doesn't come back fully or normally."

The impact of this, says Dr. Johnston, can go from annoying to downright dangerous.

"You couldn't smell if there was a fire or you couldn't smell if you were going to eat something that turned bad and, of course, in terms of our enjoyment of eating. If we can't taste things properly then maybe our appetite goes down and we're just not eating what we should or not getting the enjoyment out of eating."

The good news is there are ways to rehab our sense of smell.

RELATED: Fragrance designer helps COVID-19 long haulers regain sense of smell

"The new term for it is smell therapy or physical therapy for your nose which is a cute way to phrase that. What that means where you try to train the neurons that interpret those smells to learn again. And how do you do that? You can smell things that have a real distinct odor...say roses or eucalyptus or herbs or essential oils. As you are smelling them, try to envision what you're smelling and try to teach your brain what that is."

And if smell therapy doesn't work, Dr. Johnston says new research is leading to new treatments.

"We do think that there is possibly some inflammatory component to it as well so steroids may be helpful too. We have steroids you can spray up the nose that might be something that can augment the smell therapy."

The mission of ABC15's Health Insider series is to dive deeper into the things impacting your health and the health of those around you. We're going in-depth with expert advice from people who know it, see it every day in their work and study it. Have a story idea? Contact the team at HealthInsider@abc15.com.