Covid-19: smell training a 'cheap and simple' way to help patients recover loss of senses

Scientists say sniffing at least four different aromas, twice daily, could help with the lasting effects of anosmia

Researchers recommend smell training as a simple and free way to help with the lasting effects of Covid-19. Unsplash
Researchers recommend smell training as a simple and free way to help with the lasting effects of Covid-19. Unsplash

One of the most common symptoms people diagnosed with Covid-19 face is the loss of their sense of smell, with one in five patients reporting that it has still not returned to normal eight weeks after contracting the virus.

Scientists are now recommending that those people undergo “smell training”, to help get back their senses. The training would involve sniffing at least four different odours twice a day for several months, to help strengthen the nose during recovery.

Experts say it is a “cheap, simple and side effect-free” way of treating the common symptom, which can last for several weeks or even months after recovery from Covid-19.

Professor Carl Philpott, a smell loss expert at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said the method could aid patients’ recovery through neuroplasticity, “the brain’s ability to reorganise itself to compensate for a change or injury”.

There has been much research into anosmia, the medical term of the loss of smell, since the onset of the pandemic. In October, a study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University found that between 44 and 77 per cent of Covid-19 patients experienced a complete loss of smell during the height of the illness.

The smell training is recommended following research published in the medical journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, which warns against using steroids to treat anosmia.

There is “very little evidence”, Philpott says, that anti-inflammatory drugs are a useful treatment for anosmia patients, and that they carried “potential side effects, including fluid retention, high blood pressure, and problems with mood swings and behaviour”.

While a high number of Covid-19 patients around the world have experienced the symptom, Philpott said research showed that most people “regain their sense of smell spontaneously”, with 90 per cent fully regaining their smell within six months.

Updated: May 5, 2021 01:05 PM

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