If you've had COVID, there's a good chance you've lost your sense of smell at some point. For many, it's just temporary. For others, the problem lingers, but there may be a way to train your brain to smell again.
“I lost my sense of smell probably day 8,” says Lori Weinke.
Weinke is certainly not alone. Doctors say up to 80% of COVID patients experience loss of smell, called anosmia. And it usually happens with milder cases of the virus. For Lori, it came on fast.
“I was in the shower, and using a new shampoo, and it smelled really good, and then all the sudden it was gone. Literally gone,” she says.
Most people recover quickly. For Lori, she says it lasted about five days.
“Ninety-five percent seem to recover by 6 months, which still does leave that 5% or so of people who may not recover. They just have not had a long enough time that we don't know if they're going to recover or not,” says Dr. Derek Schmidt with Health Partners.
Now, before you dismiss this as no big deal, imagine this; You can't smell or taste your food, not just for enjoyment, but to recognize if it's spoiled. To not be able to smell a fire or a gas leak in your home. So, how do you fix it? Smell training.
"Often I'll call it aroma therapy, aroma training, olfactory training is probably a better way of looking at it,” says Dr. Schmidt.
Basically, it's retraining your brain to recognize smells again. It's both cheap and easy to do. You create a smell training kit with scents that you remember. Little labeled bottles or jars with essential oils inside.
“You know it's a couple times a day you open up a container you smell it and try to remember what it smells like,” Dr. Schmidt says.
The key is to keep at it. Don't get frustrated if you don't see immediate results. Like with anything, training will pay off.
"You may not get it back totally 100%, but you might get some of it back, and a little bit of smell is better than no smell,” he says.
Dr. Schmidt also recommends a few websites if you want to learn more or to make your own smell training kit.