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Kelsey Mix sprayed a pine-scented air freshener in her office last week and then burst into tears. For the first time in several months, she felt it.
Mix, a 36-year-old lawyer living outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, has been infected with the coronavirus since March 30. A week after the onset of the disease, she noticed that her sense of taste and smell disappeared. Her floral, fruity perfume seemed odorless. Tom Yam soup made from fresh Thai chili had no taste.
After almost three months, Mix said she could say salty or sweet, or perhaps catch an unpleasant smell, but for the most part her feelings were still gone.
“Before COVID-19, my ability to smell and taste was equivalent to watching an action movie at the Dolby Atmos Theater,” she told Business Insider. “Now I look at black and white photographs, and not watch a movie in high resolution.”
Scientists are beginning to understand why the virus has such an effect: recent article In a conversation, Dr. Jane Parker, an assistant professor of taste chemistry at the University of Reading, and Dr. Simon Gain, a rhinologist from the University of London, explained that patients with coronavirus might have a “crevice syndrome”. Just then, swollen tissues and mucus block the olfactory gap – the part of the nose responsible for the smell.
In these cases, aromas cannot reach the olfactory neurons. As soon as the patient’s edema decreases, the path to his olfactory neurons opens, and they should begin to smell again after a week or two. But a more aggressive inflammation reaction can cause tissue damage, leaving patients no smell for 30 days or more,
Patients with more severe infections may need more time to restore their sense of smell.
Since ACE2 receptors are found in the nose, as well as in the throat, intestines, lungs, and heart, scientists first thought that coronavirus could use these receptors to destroy olfactory neurons.
But in article still awaiting reviewA group of researchers from the UK and the USA found that this is not so. Instead, the virus seems to penetrate neighboring cells that support olfactory neurons. Damage to these cells causes swelling in the nose, which can suppress the patient’s sense of smell, even if the person is not overloaded.
In severe cases, the body’s immune response can also lead to it. attack healthy tissueThis can lead to direct damage to the olfactory neurons. The more aggressive the immune response, the more serious the damage may be. In some cases, some loss of smell may be permanent.
Risk of permanent odor loss
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists loss of taste and smell as a symptom of COVID-19but it’s still unclear how often this happens. April study of over 200 coronavirus hospitalized patients in Wuhan, China, found that only 5% had a loss of taste and smell. But another study of 50 patients with coronavirus that month found that 98% had at least some “odor dysfunction”.
The reality is likely somewhere in between: A May review found that about 53% of patients with coronavirus had odor dysfunction. Spanish example they also found that almost 40% of patients with COVID-19 developed odor and / or taste disturbances, compared with only 12% of patients with influenza.
Crystal Cox / Business Insider
Scientists are still not sure whether the loss of smell is the reason that patients with coronavirus have problems with tasting, because these two feelings are closely related, or does the virus also affect the taste paths.
Some patients with coronavirus may begin to restore their sense of smell, as their olfactory neurons recover within weeks or months. These patients often develop parosmia — a distorted sense of smell — when they recover, which can turn pleasant odors into unpleasant odors such as chemicals or burning sensations.
“I don’t wear perfume anymore because it’s too dull to spray it every morning and not smell it,” Mix said. “Sometimes I smell it, but the part that I feel now smells bad.”
Some patients may suffer from permanent loss of smell if their olfactory neurons are destroyed. In these cases, there is evidence that training exercises, such as daily inhalation of essential oils, can help people gain some sense.
Mix said she treasures small victories when it comes to restoring her sense of smell – but the idea of skipping the joys of food, especially in a culinary city like New Orleans, has caused psychological damage.
“As a result of the fact that I can no longer experience these things, I feel that I have lost much more than just my feelings,” said Mix. “Several times a day, I remember that I had COVID-19, and I still have it.”
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