Skip to main content

Taste & Smell

The COVID-19 infection can have a significant impact on taste and smell. The effects of this on quality of life can be profound and the recovery can be very different for each individual.

You may experience complete, moderate or partial loss in your taste and/or smell. Taste and smell change after COVID is common and there is currently no medication to aid recovery, but applying the following advice may help:

SMELL:

Complete loss of the sense of smell is called 'Anosmia'.

If your sense of smell is dulled or reduced it is called 'Hyposmia'.

Some people get ‘Phantosmia’ which is smelling phantom smells and some people get a combination of these.

This may improve by itself, or over time, but for a small number of people these changes may be long term. The evidence and research is continually being updated and we are still learning about it, but there are things that you can do that may be helpful to encourage your sense of smell to repair and return. Smell training is one thing you may find helpful.

Smell training

Smell training has been shown to help recovery in several studies. Smell training helps to stimulate the “olfactory system” which is the connection between the nose and brain where smells are recognised. This system can be stimulated to aid improvement.

Recovery takes time and can take a few weeks, months or years. It is important to continue doing smell training even if you feel it isn’t working as it may take months to even start to improve. An individual’s ability to recover and the time it may take cannot really be predicted, but smell training can help. There are some excellent resources online on Abscent and FifthSense websites. (see links below)

It is helpful to watch the videos that demonstrate how to use the ‘bunny hop’ sniffs, to ensure olfactory nerve stimulation, rather than breathing too deeply and bypassing this nerve. This nerve can take a long time to recover so time, patience, motivation and perseverance is essential and a commitment to carry out smell training for a minimum of four months or longer is needed, smelling four smells twice daily every day. Improving smell may cause temporary distortion (Parosmia) but this is a phase of normal recovery and a good sign that improvement is happening and an encouragement to persevere.

Taste:

Food and drink may be left tasting different or unpleasant following your COVID illness.

Food may taste bland, distorted, metallic, too sweet or too salty. It is important to keep trying a variety of foods even if previously disliked. A nutritious healthy diet high in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, and protein is important to stimulate both the sense of taste and smell, aid your recovery and support your immune system. Follow the ‘Eat Well’ advice. Eat regularly, try and not restrict your intake as this may impact on your appetite, weight and recovery.

The following tips may help:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene (e.g. clean teeth regularly) and good hydration
  • Use nutritious ready meals or cold foods if you also suffer from fatigue and struggle to cook. Eat foods at room temperature if your appetite is affected by the smell of cooking.
  • Try bland foods (plain rice, boiled potatoes, pasta) if having difficulty with distorted smell or taste
  • Try different flavours, textures, temperatures to see which foods are most palatable for you
  • Add sauce, spices, herbs, pickles, mustard and try marinating foods to provide variety of flavour and improve sensory stimulation
  • Plastic cutlery can be helpful if foods have a metallic taste
  • Sweetening food and/or drink with a small amount honey/sugar may be helpful for salty or bitter taste changes

Mindful eating is also useful to use all your senses as much as possible in the present moment. Sight, sound, touch, texture, smell, taste and memory can all help you regain pleasure in eating and drinking.

More about taste & smell

  • ENT UK: www.entuk.org 
  • Abscent, information on smell loss and guides to smell retraining using kits purchasable through the website or homemade
  • Fifthsense, Support for people suffering smell and taste disorders and tips on howto manage them
Follow us: