Losing your senses with Corona Virus
Last October my family and I tested positive for COVID-19 and I decided to blog about my experience. Well that was 7 months ago and while I feel fit and healthy, the one area that took longer to get back to ‘normal’ is my sense of smell.
At the time I noticed that my sense of taste and smell were dramatically affected by the virus and I wrote a blog over time to document what I was experiencing and how my senses were changing and recovering.
When I received my positive PCR test for corona virus I felt fine, but I deteriorated as our 10 day isolation progressed. Food started tasting bland but that’s quite normal for me when I’m feeling unwell, but the day before Halloween it was as though someone flicked a switch in my brain and turned off my sense of taste and smell.
When I say switched off, I mean totally off.
Food tasting of nothing, just warm and a texture in my mouth which is the strangest sensation. I love coffee and I find espresso too strong, but one day I made myself an espresso at home and drank it without adding sugar and I tasted of nothing. It didn’t smell of anything either.
It’s strange living with no sense of taste and smell. Getting ready in the morning for instance. I know my shampoo and conditioner smell lovely, my moisturiser has a subtle scent and I’m very particular about the deodorant I use.
My nose is a valuable tool in the kitchen and all of a sudden I’m left blinded to scents in my kitchen. How many times have you said ‘Does this smell OK?’.
I hate to waste food and I use my nose to judge if a food is OK. I know you could rely on ‘Best Before’ dates, but there are times when that date wasn’t worth the package it was written on.
Cooking meals for the family I’m having to stick with dishes I cook regularly that I can cook without tasting because I can’t actually taste them.
A bad smell up my nose
After a few days of smelling nothing, there’s a change. Whereas before there was absolutely nothing happening in my nasal passages, now I have a scent up my nose and it’s not a welcome change.
This is the only way I can describe it. It’s like being in an area with lots of diesel cars and I’m constantly breathing in diesel fumes. I can’t get away from it. It’s just there and it’s making me feel like crap.
Searching for taste
After my nausea cleared up I was hungry and was ready to eat. Despite eating what I think are normally tasty meals, I’m really missing the flavours so I start nibbling on lots of little things to see if I can taste them. This goes on for a few days before I get a grip of myself not before trying some prawn crackers. To me they were disappointing discs of nothing.
I was talking to my postman yesterday about our covid experience and told him about losing my sense of taste and smell. He said that if he couldn’t taste anything he wouldn’t bother eating and I thought I’d feel the same, but I went the opposite way.
Desperately searching out flavours. I was out shopping and I decided to pick up some Ginger shots. They’re billed as immunity boosting drink shots – don’t get me started on this quackery. I used these as a barometer of where my sense of taste was. After drinking the first shot it was clear that on a scale of 1 to 10, I was at zero.
A couple of days later I went from zero to bitter. Not bitter as in unhappy, but a bitter taste to everything which went hand in hand with the diesel smell. It was miserable.
Googling for help and advice
I really dislike using the internet for medical advice, but I wanted to seek out articles that could help me regain my senses. My GP has enough going on without me ringing for an appointment and I’m not sure they can do anything.
While there seem to be no quick fixes the general advice I read was to start ‘re-training’ my sense of smell. I have a set of 8 different essential oils for a vaporiser. I’ve started sniffing these each day.
I also have a good sniff of Vicks and Olbas oil. I’ve taken a small jar and put in some coffee beans to sniff.
Suffering in company
My husband is my partner in crime and during our Covid isolation we’ve shared symptoms, although he’s fared much worse than I have and I’m normally a few days behind him in symptom progression.
He started to regain his sense of taste which gives me hope. He could detect sweet and salty notes in food. It took longer for his sense of smell to come back.
16 days after my positive PCR test
This is my worst nightmare, not being able to taste or smell anything. How can I cook without being able to taste or smell anything and I remember how long it took for my sense of smell and taste to come back before – it’s never been fully back.
Unexpectedly I start to get some taste sensations back. To me there seems to be no way to gauge what I’m going to be able to taste so I eat meals and hope for the best.
Yesterday I popped to the gym in the morning and my husband was going to cook bacon and he was going to cook extra for my lunch.
I remember walking in the house and as I walked into the kitchen I remember saying ‘I can smell bacon!’. I could taste some of it too. It’s like someone had turned up my tastebuds from zero to 3. What a joy that bacon roll was!
After lunch, I had a sniff of my coffee beans and I’m getting the smell of used coffee grounds. Chris has a sniff and leaps back from the strong coffee smell – he’s not a fan.
Out comes the Olbas oil. I put the bottle close to my nostrils and I get a feint scent of it, so to go one better my husband has a go. The bottle gets within a few cms of his nose before he’s blasted with the scent.
23 days after my positive PCR test
Well I’d love to be able to say that everything is back to normal, but it isn’t.
My tastebuds have good and bad days. I’m getting more taste sensations back each day, there are times when I’ll try something and I’m disappointed with the flavours that come through. Take today for instance. Lunch was eggs on a piece of my own sourdough toast with a side of curry spiced vegetables I made the day before. I was quite happy with what came through. Creamy egg yolk, tangy sourdough bread and a subtle spice from the vegetables.
Feeling confident I decided to make myself a coffee using my bean to cup machine. It’s all looking great, but the taste isn’t right. The coffee flavour is dialled down and there’s a background acrid bitterness that I’m not used to with a coffee.
Weeks and weeks ago I picked up a nice Rioja from Morrisons, but it’s been put to one side. Last night we decided to have a glass. Now I love red wine, but I like my red wine with a little finesse and this one had all the promise, but unfortunately for me it tasted ‘rough’.
When it comes to my sense of smell I seem to have more bad days than good.
I can be getting ready in the morning when I suddenly get a burst of scent from my deodorant, and then nothing for the rest of the day. I have longer periods when I can smell what’s cooking, but at the weekend I made a batch of my slow and low chilli for the freezer. Normally this fills the house with delicious, mouthwatering scents of chilli, but I got absolutely nothing. It wasn’t until the following day (it cooked overnight) that I finally got a whiff!
The diesel fumes sensation that I previously reported comes back every so often.
At the weekend I was shopping for a hair product. To give you some background, I’d borrowed a sea salt spray that my husband uses and as soon as I’d finishing tussling my waves I instantly regretted using the product. I hate how it smells and I’ve never told my husband.
Walking into Superdrug I found the right shelf and started smelling different products. I guess this behaviour attracts the attention of the assistants as I soon heard someone asking ‘Is there something I can help you with?’ while I’m crouched down and sniffing hair products!
I explained my dislike for the aforementioned product and explained that I was sniffing around (LOL!) for a replacement. She gave me a couple of suggestions and I had to admit that I’d given them a sniff and that I couldn’t smell them, to which I was asked if I’d recently had COVID. To cut an unnecessarily long story short, she recommended a product, I couldn’t smell it but I took her at her recommendation and bought the product.
BURSTS OF FRAGRANCE
The strangest thing which the sensation of losing my sense of smell back in October’21 is that I have unwittingly reduced the range of meals that we’ve had to ones that I can make with my eyes shut so to speak. Dishes that I’ve made so often that I can instinctively cook them, season them without worrying about the seasoning being off, but that doesn’t help someone who loves creating and sharing recipes.
On a positive note I’m noticing more smells day to day. I’ve been using a hair styling product that was part of a Christmas Gift and only the other day I noticed what a lovely floral scent it had.
I’m also very grateful that my tastebuds are very much back to normal and I’m enjoying hot, spicy, sweet, sour and bitter flavours as I did before but the one after effect that I’ve noticed is that I like my coffee a lot stronger. Not a bad thing when you are mum to 7 year old twin boys!