Got Your Nose

COVID Stole Their Smell and Taste. Now They’re Getting Treatment.

It's like "physical therapy for your nose."

Luke Price
Image by Luke Price

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have turned their focus on treating the long term effects of COVID-19 — including the loss of taste and smell, a symptom affecting a significant portion of those who have recovered from infection, as CBS-affiliated TV station KHOU reports.

We’ve long known that the coronavirus can wreak havoc on our senses. A loss of smell was one of the earliest symptoms of COVID to be identified during the early stages of the pandemic.

Now, amid one of the largest vaccine drives in human history, health experts are finally turning their attention to treating these symptoms.

In December, Congress approved a $1.15 billion four-year study to study the long-term health consequences of contracting the virus, including any increases in the risk of chronic heart or brain disorders.

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The loss of taste and smell has been particular persistent. It’s wreaking havoc, for instance, with chefs who survived COVID and now have to cook without their full palate.

And now, it’s something that doctors at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, are investigating.

They’re trying to come up with ways to help patients regain their olfactory senses through what boils down to be “really physical therapy for your nose,” as Sunthosh Sivam, a Baylor College facial plastic surgeon, told KHOU. It’s “more or less, retraining the brain.”

According to Sivam, it’s about a third of his patients, usually relatively young, that experience a long term loss of smell or taste.

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While a loss of taste or smell isn’t exactly immediately life-threatening, it’s still an unfortunate side effect that patients are eager to overcome. Under medical supervision, doctors can also make sure it’s not something more serious like allergies or sinus disorders.

We’ve long had proof that countless COVID patients, often called “long-haulers,” have had to cope with some troubling symptoms that can persist over several months following infection and recovery.

It’s a positive sign that the medical and scientific community hasn’t forgotten these patients. We may have a chance of beating the virus — but that doesn’t necessarily mean everybody will be back to their usual selves.


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